We’re the ones that keep this hospital functioning. We deserve $20 an hour because everything around us is going up!

By Ronald Philips

I’m a full-time valet worker at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. I’ve been here for 4 years and believe we need $20 and a union. We can’t support a family on the wages paid by UPMC.

I used to be a corrections officer, and started doing this post-retirement. When I was a corrections officer I was more stationary, so this job has been much more physically demanding. On a typical day we punch in, stand at the driveway, take cars and park the cars. We go back and wait for our next ticket, so we make a big loop. I’ve lost 15 pounds.

I was in a union for 20 years, so I knew the benefits. I always got a raise. I always had my medical coverage. I always had whatever my contract called for. Having a union contract makes everything fair across the board. Whatever guaranteed wage increases your contract calls for, that’s what you’re going to get!

When I got to UPMC I saw that there were employees that had been working here for years, making less money than someone just hired off the street. I’d hear that all around the hospital. But with a union, we can make sure that doesn’t happen. Because people’s seniority should count for something.

I couldn’t support my family on my UPMC wages, and I am lucky to have my union pension. But most people working at the hospital don’t have that.

If we had a union, we could enforce better working conditions. We’d be able to stop favoritism. Management couldn’t just switch my hours without any notice. It’s going to be fair because it has to go by the contract. With my job now I could make an infraction, and my fate is at the whim of the employer. At least with a union there are going to be some steps there before they take any final action. You always have a voice in it.

I just want management to know that we are your laborers, we’re the ones that keep this hospital functioning. We deserve $20 an hour because everything around us is going up! I’d like to be respected more in my job as a valet. A lot of guys feel disrespected because of what we’re paid. They show us they don’t respect us. We were on the front lines, too; we were still parking cars as the first people who visitors came into contact with, before they saw the doctors and nurses.

It’s scary, publicly supporting organizing a union. But I’ve been in a union before so I know. We need to start somewhere, we need to stand up and say “That’s enough.”