Hospital workers nationwide protest: "We can't afford health care"
Health-care workers across the country are protesting hospital pay and work conditions.
By Rachal Aslett | Feb 20, 2020 | Print-friendly

Health-care workers across the United States are launching union drives and organizing protests to demand better working conditions and pay. Worker unions and workers trying to form unions say that the hospital systems exploit them and that they themselves are often unable to afford adequate health care, even though they work in the sector.

"We're overworked and underpaid," said Bill Gentry, an EMT and CAN at Advocate Aurora Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. "You would think because we take care of people, our benefits would reflect that, but I'm currently on my wife's insurance because I can't afford the health insurance offered by the hospital."

Illinois unions are trying to jumpstart a new union at four local hospitals, including Aurora, where Gentry said that he makes just $18 an hour with unaffordable health insurance and is often forced to take on tasks outside his job description, despite having worked at the hospital for 23 years.

Other efforts to form a union are ongoing at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Alexandria Cutler, a center food-service attendant who is leading the effort, said that she has $2,000 in medical debt from a work-related injury and is struggling to pay it due to the low wages.

Hospital workers in Las Vegas, meanwhile, are rallying to stop proposed cuts in their latest union contract with Valley Hospital Medical Center. The medical center is proposing to cut wages by $3 an hour and to eliminate pension and health benefits and a guaranteed 40-hour work week. And it fired three employees last November, all of whom were union stewards.