Sunday, April 20, 2014

Living Wage

Coverage and discussion of the fight for a living wage at what is regarded as one the world's leading hospitals, John Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.  In the first of two videos below, we hear from long-time hospital workers on a three day strike describing the challenges of their jobs while trying to survive on meager pay.   

In the second video and radio show below, guests discuss, "Can John Hopkins afford to pay a living wage?" 

Well, a four year contract under the employees' proposal would cost the hospital 12 million dollars.  Carietta Hiers with the SEIU points out that, each year, the hospital makes 84 million dollars, so to pay people a sufficient wage would cost them the relatively small fraction of only 3 million per year - out of that 84 million - under the proposal.  

Also, Jeff Singer, founder and executive director of Health Care for the Homeless, and instructor with the University of Maryland School of Social Work, states that compensation for the CEO of Hopkins is more than the annual cost of bringing all the John Hopkins workers' salaries up to a liveable standard.  He cites a contrasting example with Larry Page, one of the Google founders, who takes a salary of a dollar per year because he wants to make sure that the company has a rich benefits package and pays their workers reasonably well.  Maybe that's an idea for other CEOs, Mr. Singer suggests.  

In addition, he says, John Hopkins assets were reported at 470 million dollars - "that's what they have, essentially, sitting around."  Mr. Singer states they could easily take one source of those assets, put it "in a lock box," and "keep that money for nothing but investing in their employees.  It wouldn't harm one current employee.  It wouldn't reduce the number of employees."  

He adds that they have 13 people on their payroll whose compensation is half a million dollars per year.  And yet, he queries, they can't afford to pay more than a non-living wage?  "They can't afford to bring salaries beyond the food stamps requirements?" 

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