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ACMH workers ask board for fair pact

Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times
Cathy Cousins, (left), unit chair and recording secretary of local USW 158 and a medical assistant at Armstrong Primary Care Center in Leechburg makes an appeal to John Lewis, (far right), president and CEO of ACMH, Chase McClister, (second from right), chairman of the ACMH Board of Directors and other board members in attendance, for a fair contract at the annual Board of Directors meeting at ACMH on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

EAST FRANKLIN — A group of workers from four clinics run by ACMH Hospital turned up at the hospital's annual board of directors meeting on Tuesday to make an appeal for what they called a fair contract.

At issue is a proposed increase in health care costs for 26 union employees working as licensed practical nurses, medical assistants and receptionists at the area clinics. Those unionized clinics in the ACMH system are the primary care centers in Rural Valley, Elderton, Leechburg and South Bethlehem.

Early in the meeting, Pat Burns, the chief financial officer of ACMH Hospital used a powerpoint presentation to illustrate the hospital's expenditures and revenues from 2011 to 2012. Total expenses for the fiscal year 2012 totaled around $89.6 million, said Burns. A pie chart showed salaries and fringe benefits taking up 59 percent of the pie, totaling about $53 million. According to Burns, ACMH made a little over $5.2 million.

“The hospital did have a positive year last year,” he said.

When the meeting opened for public comment, Cathy Cousins, unit chair and recording secretary for United Steelworkers addressed the board on behalf of the 25 other workers. Cousins noted that she is a medical assistant in the Leechburg facility.

She asked the board to support the union workers plea for a fair negotiation.

“It's been over six years since we have had a raise,” said Cousins, adding that any increase in health care costs would be financially crippling for many employees and their families.

“I don't know how the hospital expects us to pay these outrageous costs in health care,” she said. “We're not asking for the whole pie, we're asking for a piece of it.”

Chase McClister, board chairman, thanked Cousins and the group of workers for coming to voice their concerns and added that the board was not able, at that time, to make a comment.

Cousins acknowledged the board's position saying she had not expected a response.

“We're asking for the hospital to bargain in good faith, that's all we're asking,” she said. “The price of everything is going up. How are we expected to keep up with inflation?”

After the meeting adjourned, Cousins said the current health insurance costs are affordable.

However, the health care increase, proposed in early January, will cost some employees (paying family rates) as much as $400 or $500 per paycheck, she said.

“Some people only bring home $1,400 a month,” said Cousins.

Bonnie Caler, unit secretary for USW local 158, is a receptionist at the Leechburg facility where Cousins works.

“We care about where we work,” said Caler.

“That's why we're still there. We don't want to leave these wonderful patients or our coworkers.”

Unfortunately, said Cousins, if the issue isn't resolved she won't be left with much of an option.

“If they do implement this (health insurance hike) I will have to look for another job,” she said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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