UPMC Presby, Shadyside food pantry becomes dividing line
Employees at UPMC Mercy say they always have taken pride in their faith-based mission to help those in need, especially their own.
Just over a year ago, they started a food pantry to help fellow workers who fell on hard times, such as an illness or accident, a family emergency or the loss of a spouse's job.
“It's part of what we do,” said Danielle Kaib, a registered nurse in Mercy's quality department for more than 30 years. “We've lived the mission. We're here for one another.”
Some UPMC employees are criticizing the pantry, saying it wouldn't be needed if UPMC paid reasonable wages. Mercy employees say they are offended by the critics' rush to judgment.
“It's disgusting what people are saying,” said Rosa Esposito, who works at Mercy's information technology department. She and seven co-workers gathered in a conference room on Wednesday to express concern about those who they say are misconstruing the project's purpose. “It's amazing that they are twisting things around. This has nothing do to with people's wages.”
Leslie Poston, 48, of Wilkinsburg, a secretary at UPMC Presbyterian, became upset when her unit director showed her a flier promoting a food drive at the Oakland hospital. Workers at Presby and UPMC Shadyside started to collect food after hearing about Mercy's program.
Poston, who expressed concern about low wages and inadequate health benefits, believes Presby's food bank expansion was geared toward her because, she said, her manager told her, “Leslie, we've heard what you've been saying” about pay and other work conditions.
“It's a disgrace to me, demeaning to me, that I would come to where I work to pick up food and then my other co-workers see me,” said Poston, who makes $12.74 an hour. “UPMC doesn't get it. I would like to buy my own food. They're asking other employees to bring in food.”
Poston supports unionizing efforts by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which wants to represent nonclinical workers at some UPMC facilities. Krysta Curl, a SEIU spokeswoman, said the union has no position on the food pantry issue, but said it outraged “a lot of workers.”
“It's admirable that employees are helping each other, but why aren't the bosses doing something?” asked Teri Collins of Wilkinsburg, who makes just over $14 an hour after 31 years of employment as a former housekeeper and now unit secretary. “My concern is that we work for a $10 billion company, and our CEO makes millions. It's sad that we work for someone that big and people have to resort to a food bank to supplement their income.”
UPMC employs more than 55,000 people, making it Pittsburgh's largest employer. The average salary is $60,000 a year, according to the health system. The SEIU is looking to unionize drivers, maintenance and food service workers.
Will Cook, president of UPMC Mercy, said he takes offense to anyone who would criticize the good deeds of his employees, who are following the footsteps of the Sisters of Mercy, the Roman Catholic congregation that founded the hospital in 1848.
“This is an organization that has a set of values at its core — and that includes caring,” Cook said, emphasizing that employees created the pantry project.
A Mercy registered nurse who used the food pantry told the Trib she makes “very good money” but several years ago experienced health and personal problems that took her “beyond the breaking point.”
“Mercy lifted me up in ways that I can't talk about because I'll start crying,” she said. She asked not to be identified to protect her family's privacy. “It's not about the food. It's about the hope and the dignity and knowing that you're not in this alone.”
Staff writer Adam Smeltz contributed to this report. Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412 -320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lower gas prices entice motorists to drive long distances for Thanksgiving
- U.S. Steel Tower tenants stand to benefit from company’s relocation
- Suspect in Route 28 death has long history of ignoring vehicle registration, license laws, records show
- La Roche College to accept up to 90 credits from community college students
- Alcoa judgement helps U.S. Attorney’s Office collect 5 times its budget
- Newsmaker: Sister Rita Yeasted
- Thanksgiving closures
- Brentwood police chief to get nearly $200K as part of settlement agreement with borough
- Surgery for man shot by Pittsburgh officer on hold amid legal limbo
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- RMU dormitory fire will displace 10 students