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Charleston Raise Up, Healthcare Workers Protest at MUSC Board Meeting
Published:
10/14/2015 4:12:18 PM


Protestors at MUSC Board Meeting October 9 (Photo by Kerry Taylor)
 

Protestors at MUSC Board Meeting October 9 (Photo by Kerry Taylor)
 
Workers affiliated with Charleston Raise Up brought the fight for $15 and a union to the Medical University of South Carolina on Friday. Demonstrating with Healthcare Workers United--a Charleston based labor rights group--and other community supporters, the workers raised the demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all hospital workers at the regular MUSC Board of Trustees Meeting.

As the meeting got under way, startled board members and administrators read over the Healthcare Workers’ written list of demands, which also includes reform of the employee grievance process and the reinstatement of Chris Nelson, a nurse who was fired after 19 years of service to the hospital.

“As we know that poverty is correlated with illness and poor healthcare, it is unconscionable that this hospital pays thousands of workers poverty wages,” said Leonard Riley Jr. of Healthcare Workers United and ILA Local 1422. “Their practices imperil the community health. They would never sell cigarettes and asbestos to the public, how do they get away with impoverishing their employees?”

The Raise Up campaign and the struggle for justice at MUSC will escalate in the coming weeks as low wage workers across South Carolina raise the demand for a minimum wage hike.

Healthcare Workers United released the following statement about the meeting:

Healthcare Workers United is group of healthcare workers and community allies that promotes economic equality and fairness for employees of the Medical University of South Carolina. We are guided by two assumptions: that the best assurance of excellent patient care is a stable, confident, and well-compensated workforce, and that while MUSC has done away with the most blatant forms of its Jim Crow past, remnants of its racist and authoritarian culture continue to shape the day-to-day experiences of employees and patients. 

Our accomplishments have been modest, but we were instrumental in convincing President Greenberg to provide Medical Office Assistants with the opportunity to upgrade their skills when they were displaced by the implementation of the EPIC electronic records system. We have drawn attention to supervisors who have histories of abusing and intimidating their employees, and have helped workers navigate the grievance process, an experience which employees often find confusing and disempowering. MUSC's Diversity and Inclusion initiative is a direct response to our agitation as is the hiring of Anton Gunn and Willette Burnham as diversity officers. These are moves which we applaud.

The recent act of racist terror in Charleston has created a market for diversity and antiracism. People of good will are eager to distance themselves from Dylann Roof's crude hatred. Business leaders and HR professionals embrace "diversity and inclusion" to rebrand suspect institutions as enlightened and progressive. It is critical to MUSC's diversity initiative and to the health of the hospital, however, that we not confuse the performance of antiracism with justice. The latter requires the kind of substantive reforms that we have been persistent in raising for many months, most recently during the current Diversity and Inclusion sessions. 

Today, we return to the regular MUSC Board of Trustees meeting to ensure that board members are aware of three of the demands that we have been making to hospital administrators: 

1. The reinstatement of Christine Nelson, a registered nurse who was terminated after nearly twenty years of service to MUSC for speaking out against threats to patients and coworkers.

2. The implementation of a $15 an hour minimum wage for all MUSC employees, including independent contractors. Paying less than a living wage undermines the community's health and contradicts the hospital's mission. 

3. A transparent grievance procedure that levels the playing field between employee and employer. 

MUSC's unwillingness to make the kinds of bold changes that are necessary to align itself with its public mission guarantees continuing disarray at the hospital and university and invites the possibility of tragedy. In the coming months we will continue to work both within and outside of the MUSC structure to work toward a healthier MUSC and a healthier Carolina. We hope the Board will join us.



Contact: Healthcare Workers United (843) 830-4471

 

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