I’m Going to Fight With My Voice and I’m Not Going to Stop Until UPMC Hears Me

by Rachel Dittmar

You’ve got to pay your bills, pay your rent, and it’s a struggle. I work full time delivering patient meals. I’ve worked at UPMC Shadyside for 15 years, and it’s only getting worse. You have to do overtime just to pay ends meet. You should be able to work without picking up more work and pay your rent, light, and gas. But I’ve been here 15 years and can’t cover everything. It doesn’t add up.

I have two grandkids and one of their birthdays is coming up at the end of this month. Will I be able to get them a birthday gift? I don’t know.

I have medical issues and I can’t get a second job to make ends meet. Now I’m behind on my rent, and there’s nothing I can do about it. UPMC just has to pay us more. I was working at UPMC when I got my cancer diagnosis back in 2009. I had to have a big surgery. But since I wasn’t able to come back to work within six months they let me go. I thought that was wrong. There are a lot of people who lose their jobs that way — getting sick. I had a manager who fought for me to come back a year later. I was still going through chemo.

And it’s gotten even worse since COVID. We’ve worked through the pandemic and we still haven’t gotten a “thank you,” or “we’re happy you did all this” let alone hazard pay or wages we can live on. We got nothing and most of us are living paycheck to paycheck. There’s finally an overtime bonus but you can’t get it if you call off for any reason; even if you get COVID yourself!

All of us are so burned out. We’re nobody to UPMC. We’re just somebody off the street. They only hear what they want to hear. When Jeffrey Romoff won an award, he gave us tee shirts. I need money, not a raggedy old tee shirt. I want to be paid for my work. I’ve got bills to pay. We helped them get where they are now making record profits. Give us the money that we already worked for.

UPMC doesn’t know how to treat their employees. We have been through so much. It’s taken a toll. We’re sad. We’re burnt out. We don’t have enough people. We’re tired. And we’re losing people every day to better jobs. Enough is enough. UPMC bosses need to get off their seats and see what’s happening. They need to be in our shoes and see how it feels. They need to hear our voice and hear why we want a union. We need better wages. We need better insurance. We need more people at work.

UPMC needs to be better. And they can do better. They made billions and can pay us for our hard work.

I tell my coworkers that you have to stand for yourself. If you want to do this then you have to stand up. Don’t hide. You have to stand up for what you want in life. I’m going to fight with my voice and I’m not going to stop until they hear my voice.

That’s the truth.