I’m tired of how I’m treated everyday. With $20 an hour and a union, we’d at least have a voice.

by Cameron Best

I’ve worked in food service assembly at UPMC Presby for almost a year. I’ve held a lot of different jobs, especially in the past year. I’ve worked in restaurants, as a barista, and even in a factory. So many places were closed during COVID, then a friend of mine started working at UPMC and suggested it to me.

I make less than $16 an hour. It pays the rent, but there’s not a lot leftover. I have 5 roommates. It was the one place I could find after briefly being homeless last year.

I just want to have some money in my pocket. I definitely never sign up for auto pay for my bills or I’d get into serious trouble. Financially, I’d like to get to the point where I could use auto pay and not have to worry about having enough money to cover expenses each month.

We all deserve at least $20 an hour. I have to deliver trays to patients, and that’s not even in my job description. I just have to do it because we’re so short staffed. Ultimately it eats away at my own personal break time because I have to rush back from the wards to the dish room. Otherwise my work will pile up and be unmanageable during my shift.

Delivering trays sounds simple, but in a hospital during a pandemic it can be dangerous because the rooms aren’t properly labeled. I’ve unknowingly walked into a COVID room and know coworkers have too. The ward itself isn’t marked, and the sign in the room isn’t obvious. It’s hard to know where it is dangerous to enter when you’re not up there all the time. On two occasions I walked into a room that had airborne contaminants. I didn’t realize it until I opened the door and saw a nurse in full PPE wearing a protective suit. I handed her the food and left.

Once I found out about the organizing movement at UPMC I jumped right in. This company has continued to push me too far, and I’m tired of how I’m treated every day. If we were to get $20 an hour and a right to form a union, at least I would have a voice.

With a union, maybe I could actually go to the doctor. I can’t even afford to be a patient in the hospital that I work in. I’m living paycheck to paycheck, and I can’t afford to be sick. I can’t afford to get hurt. Otherwise I’d be in deeper medical debt than I already am. I’m $5,000 in debt to UPMC right now from when I fell a few years ago and needed 20 stitches in my head.

I’m tired of my low wages. I’m tired of eating ramen every night. UPMC is supposed to be a center for care, health and healing, but all they do is line their pockets. We need a union so we can have a voice, and have a say in how things are run.

I know a lot of my coworkers are struggling, too. I hear a lot of stories, and I hope all of them join me in this fight.