Community calls for community benefits agreement that protects Berwyn from lost property tax revenue and ensures hospital workers are paid a living wage and have the right to join a union
BERWYN— Homeowners, teachers, clergy, and hospital workers voiced their concerns about the potential sale of MacNeal Hospital to Loyola Medicine at a press conference ahead of a hearing before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.
The group says the purchase of MacNeal, a for-profit hospital, by the not-for-profit Loyola Medicine hospital system will take badly needed tax revenue from the community, further burdening Berwyn taxpayers and impacting schools and other services. MacNeal is the #1 taxpayer in the City of Berwn. Loyola Medicine, while technically a non-profit, operates like a corporation. The group provided a fact sheet that showed the loss of property taxes to school districts and local governments would total $3.5 million a year.
They called for a Loyola Medicine to sign a community benefit agreement that would include:
- Annual payment in lieu of taxes equal to lost property tax revenue.
- $15 minimum wage and right to organize free from interference
- Local hiring
- Community Benefit Advisory Board
Berwyn homeowner Emily Kraiem voiced her concern about higher property taxes. Kraiem’s property tax bill is approximately $5,000 a year. It’s estimated that homeowners’ like Emily could pay an additional $185 a year if Loyola doesn’t pay any property tax.
“Working people like me are stretched thin. We can’t afford to pay higher property taxes just so the rich can pay less,” said Kraiem.
Robert Bartlett, a teacher at Morton West High School, said the loss of property tax revenue from the hospital sale to Loyola could cause the loss of seven teachers or 16 educational support staff. Bartlett says Morton West hasn’t yet recovered from the 2008 recession. Class size has swelled to 30 students (up from 24) and academic classes have been cut to five.
“A child’s zip code should not determine their educational opportunities. I’m also of the opinion that institutions in our communities should uplift our communities, not diminish them,” said Bartlett.
Anne Igoe – Vice President of Hospitals and Health Systems for SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas – called attention to a 2012 law lobbied for by the Illinois Hospital Association that allows rich hospitals like Loyola to not pay property taxes.
“We’re here to send a message to the Illinois Hospital Association that workers and communities won’t be run over by big rich hospitals and their lobbyists,” said Igoe.
Shantell Grace, an environmental service (EVS) worker who works at Loyola Medicine-owned Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park, spoke about the type of employer Loyola Medicine is.
“They work me to very hard and pay me poverty wages,” Grace said. “Despite the fact that my work saves lives and that I have 17 years of experience, I’m only paid $13 an hour there.” She says workers are constantly quitting because of the low pay, which leaves the hospital short of critical staff. Grace says the Loyola management doesn’t want her to join a union and distributes anti-union material.
Grace also works at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago where she has a union. At Northwestern, she makes almost $9 an hour more for doing the exact same job. “I know the union difference. I know Loyola Medicine doesn’t have to treat its workers and patients like this,” she said.