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Legacy Strike: Report Back

Workers from Legacy Emanuel hospital are on strike today. They've been walking the picket line at the entrance to the corporate mega-hospital since early this morning, and will continue to strike throughout the day. I stopped by to learn their story.
When I arrived at the hospital, I found throngs of workers lining the entrance. Carrying signs, purple and yellow balloons, and cheerleading pom poms, they gave a spirited performance. While some people handed out flyers, others handed out refreshments, and still others marched and chanted. I wandered around and talked to numerous workers, including one woman who has worked as a unit secretary at Emanuel for 36 years. All expressed a sense of frustration that Legacy corp values their work so little, when they have given so much time and labor to make it what it is today. Judging from the honking, waving, and shouts of encouragement from passers-by, it would seem the community is with them.

Supported by SEIU local 49, the demands of the workers are simple: They want fair, decent wages. In addition, they want to be assured that staffing levels at the hospital are adequate to meet the needs of patients, and they would like to be able to afford healthcare for their own families. Startlingly, many Legacy workers are unable to afford healthcare for their families, even though they are working at a hospital.

Workers initially asked for a 6% raise, in order to bring their wages in line with those of other hospitals. After intense bargaining, the union compromised, dropping its demand to 4%. However, Legacy Emanuel refused to meet even this demand, holding firm to a 2.5% offer. This parsimonious offering is difficult to understand, given that Legacy just shelled out a 59% raise to its CEO, Robert Pallari (503-415-5600). No, not 5.9%, but 59%. This increase brought Mr. Pallari's annual salary up to a staggering $2.2 million. That's $2.2 MILLION. For one man. This is in stark contrast to the average wage for the striking workers of Local 49. They make just about $12 per hour, or around $22,000 a year.

It's hard to imagine how Legacy Emanuel can justify paying its CEO so much more than any human could possibly need, while the people who perform all of the day to day labor at the lucrative hospital earn barely enough to support their families. It's even harder when one realizes that, as a union organizer explained to me, Bob Pallari's wage increased by $822,000 last year. If the hospital had instead taken that money and distributed it among all 400 of the SEIU workers, it would have meant an 11% wage increase across the board for those doing the actual labor in the hospital. Instead, the choice was made to increase one man's wages from more than $1 million per year to $2.2 million, while allowing the children of healthcare workers to go without healthcare. It seems understandable to me that workers would take exception to a mere 2.5% offer under these circumstances.

Besides the arrogant slap in the face for workers, Legacy's financial decisions should be of concern to every member of this community. Because Legacy has acquired non-profit status, they are beneficiaries of tax breaks and other privileges that I do not believe they have earned a right to, given that they made enough money last year to lavish upon Mr. Pallari while not bothering to enrich the workers of this community. In fact, according to SEIU, audited financial statements indicate that Legacy earned more than $63 million in "excess revenue" last year. That sounds like a profit-making enterprise to me.

As I stood along the sidewalk talking to workers, I noticed the obligatory corporate security guards standing watch along the roof of a nearby parking structure. The guards seemed bored and nonchalant about the whole thing, probably because they, too, are Emanuel workers. In spite of orders to keep an eye on the strikers, they probably realize that their lot is with their fellow workers, and not with Mr. Pallari or his $2.2 million assets.

In any event, workers will continue to hold the line today, and will have a rally this afternoon at the park across the street from Emanuel hospital. I'm sure they would appreciate the solidarity if you were to stop by and join them. And do call Robert Pallari, CEO, to let him know what you think he should do with that $2.2 million salary of his. Again, his telephone number is 503-415-5600.
There's a Big Rally at 5:30pm 31.Aug.2005 16:20

DJ Shadow

It's kinda late, but this would have been a good feature...

additional info 31.Aug.2005 18:27

Matilda

Only 17% of Legacy's SEIU represented workers actually have health insurance. The rest cannot afford it. As noted above, they are only making about $12 an hour, and are expected to pay out-of-pocket the enormous, gouging prices for corporate healthcare. Clearly, Legacy does not care about health. They only care about $$. And only for themselves.

img 31.Aug.2005 19:24

img

img from seiu 503 site
SEIU 503 members joined Legacy Emanual workers from SEIU 49 for a one-day strike
SEIU 503 members joined Legacy Emanual workers from SEIU 49 for a one-day strike

Note to avoid confusion... 01.Sep.2005 08:08

adendum

This article was written yesterday, Wednesday. The strike was, for now, a one day strike. It may be necessary to take more action at a later date, but for now the union workers are returning to work today (Thursday). (I wanted to make that clear so people don't go looking for the picket line today and wonder where everyone is.)

Legacy can be shady 01.Sep.2005 10:59

Underdog

I've worked at legacy meridian park hospital for a little over 5 years. I was hired for part-time 20 hours a week with the option to purchase partial health benefits. A year after I was hired, legacy flipped it and decided that only those that worked 24 hours a week would be part-time health benefited employees. Of course they would not give me the 4 more hours a week.

Bob Pallari's salary is disgusting.

The wouldn't let children in the door if they supported the union! 02.Sep.2005 09:00

worker solidarity

During the strike, 6 kids whose parents are members of SEIU tried to go into the hospital gift shop to buy candy, and they were kicked out by hospital security. They were told that anyone who supported the union would not be allowed inside.

send a fax to pallari 03.Sep.2005 19:50

bikerboy

if you want to annoy Legacy you can send an email or fax directly to Bob himself and tell him what you think. go to www.seiu49.org and follow the links. you can just send a form letter or your own comments.