Press Release: HCII Responds After Chicago Sun-Times Reports that the Hospital Industry Pays Nearly 30,000 Workers Poverty Level Wages

Web WhitePaper01 - 30K Poverty Wages FINNew Report From Researchers at the University of Illinois on the Hospital Industry Reveal that Nearly 30,000 “Hospital Service Workers” in Illinois Make Under $15 an Hour, and 22,000 Of Which Make Under $13 an Hour Despite a Booming Healthcare Sector

CONTACT:  scott.vogel@seiuhcil.org

(September 6th, 2018, Chicago) The Chicago Sun-Times published a story based on a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois that revealed that the Illinois hospital industry pays frontline and hospital service workers poverty level wages.

The new report, Hospital Service Work in the Chicago Region and Illinois: Stagnant Wages in a Growing Sector found that nearly 30,000 Illinois hospital service workers – those in environmental services and housekeeping, food service, patient transport, and maintenance – earn below $15 an hour, and shockingly, 22,000 actually earn below $13 an hour. (See our 5 takeaways from the U of I study).

That means that in Chicago, hospital workers are making just barely over the City’s minimum wage at $12 an hour in a booming healthcare sector that is raking in billions of dollars in revenue every year and a key economic driver in Chicago and across the State.

Hospital Service Workers Rallying for $15 and a UnionThe hospital industry in Illinois also refuses to provide adequate charity care to low-income families and communities and avoids paying their fair share in taxes by manipulating and abusing their not-for-profit status.

The new report was authored by Robert Habans, PhD, and Robert Bruno, PhD and Professor and Director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The researchers stated clear policy recommendations that the hospital industry should raise wages for frontline workers to above $15 an hour and allow hospital service workers to unionize.  The authors said:

“Healthcare organizations need to improve the compensation standards of hospital service workers in order to raise their wages above $15. A proven and robust predictor of higher wages is unionization.

Studies of union impacts on hospitals wages have consistently found positive wage effects typically ranging from 3 to 12 percent. Policy and legal measures that protect workers’ rights to organize are powerful tools for advancing the incomes of both professional and nonprofessional healthcare occupations.”

In response to the Sun-Times report and new study, Anne Igoe, Vice-President of the Health Systems Division at SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana issued the following statement:

“This new report confirms the dirty little secret of the hospital industry and the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) who have kept this reality from public debate.  These wealthy and corporate hospital systems rake in billions of dollars in revenue off the backs of mostly women of color and pay them an insulting poverty level wage even though these service workers are essential to running a hospital.

“The healthcare sector across Chicago and Illinois is booming financially. And yet, these corporate hospital systems – which as the report found are consolidating and constantly innovating — clearly have the money to pay frontline hospital workers a starting wage of $15 an hour but they simply choose not to.  Their priorities are with their pocketbooks and profits – not people’s lives.

Web WhitePaper05 - Jackie Medicaid FIN“This new study quoted workers at length saying how many of them can’t afford their own health insurance, even though they work in a hospital providing quality patient care and support individuals who are sick, injured and suffering. Workers in the study repeatedly said they must choose which bills to pay and struggle to afford necessities like groceries, especially those caring for children (see page 9 on study).

“This new report must be a wakeup call to every state lawmaker, Chicago alderman, and elected officials and civic leaders across Illinois that the hospital industry must be held accountable for its agenda.

“Hospitals, and their corporate healthcare lobbyists at the Illinois Hospital Association, are simply not going to give frontline workers a fair and decent wage of $15 an hour and the right to join a union. Instead, our elected officials, healthcare workers, communities and the broad public must demand that the hospital industry be put in its proper place and take back our own voices and power.”

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