Healthcare workers rally for better pay, more community involvement by hospital

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A group of local healthcare workers held a rally outside St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy to call for higher wages and to push the hospital to do more for the community.

Healthcare workers said they love what they do, and they become attached to their patients. But they said they aren’t making enough money, and it can affect how well they do their jobs.

“When I was a kid, we were home with our parents,” 1199SEIU union worker Lori Massara said. “We had to have dinner at a certain time. Let’s get back to that.”

The 1199 workers union said healthcare workers in Troy are struggling to make ends meet because of what they called less than livable wages.

According to St. Peter’s Health Partners, their employees earn a minimum of $10 per hour. The state minimum wage is currently $9 an hour, and the national minimum wage is lower at $7.25 an hour. But the union organizer Lige English said no one can live on that.

“A lot of places count benefits based on if you make 200 percent of the poverty level,” she said. “You’re still eligible for services, so clearly we recognize that the poverty line is completely an inadequate measure for a living wage.”

“If you make a decent wage and have decent benefits, you’re going to want to go into work and you’re going to be happier,” Massara said. “Instead of going in and saying, ‘Oh, I gotta work the double shift, I gotta do this or I gotta do that to make ends meet,’ you’re not going to be happy, and the residents can feel that.”

The union also said that St. Mary’s Hospital, a non-profit, does not pay taxes like other hospitals in New York. It also said the hospital neglects to funnel money back into the community – money that they said could be used to give kids in the area safe options to occupy their time after school.

“They don’t pay taxes,” Massara said. “Our taxes go up. They need to start putting back into the community to make it better.”

Elmer Streeter with St. Peter’s Health Partners, which owns St. Mary’s, said they are giving back. He said they’ve donated $99 million towards new healthcare facilities in the area. Those projects are expected to be completed by 2017.

“It is about the broader stroke,” English said. “About making sure that the larger employers are doing right by the community, that the larger property owners are doing right by the community.”

The union said it meets the second Tuesday of every month at Best Western in Troy for anyone who wants to attend.

English can be reached at (518) 396-2333, or visit them online, HERE.

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