Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu
A protestor yells at traffic that passes by in front of the University of New Mexico Hospital Wednesday Sept. 28, 2016. The UNM Hospital Labor coalition sponsored the event in hopes to raise awareness about wages at the hospital. 

A protestor yells at traffic that passes by in front of the University of New Mexico Hospital Wednesday Sept. 28, 2016. The UNM Hospital Labor coalition sponsored the event in hopes to raise awareness about wages at the hospital. 

'The citizens of the state deserve better'

UNMH employees picket over 'unfair' salary practices

The UNM Hospital labor coalition held an informational picket on Wednesday to demand fair raises for all UNMH workers.

The coalition consists of three labor unions: District 1199 of the National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees, Communications Workers of America and Committee of Interns and Residents.

Together, the unions represent most of the workers providing bedside care, from housekeeping to resident doctors, said Lorie MacIver, district president for 1199.

“Management offered no raises for the rank and file this year. Yet they seem to have budgeted for what they call bonuses or at-risk wages. We fail to understand why if they have money for one group they don’t have it for the other,” she said.

The coalition demanded a committee of all three unions that can discuss different healthcare benefits and plans. MacIver said the hospital has a self-funded plan, so it is capable of making that change.

It is also asking that possible raises be negotiated earlier in the year, she said.

“We want to negotiate before they go into budget cycle, not after they’ve concluded,” MacIver said.

MacIver said that, after the budget is approved by law, more money cannot be added to it — meaning no raises for workers.

“We want to be able to negotiate with them in good faith and have a fair chance at negotiating a raise for our members before the budget cycle starts. The hospital’s not real excited about doing that with us,” she said.

Sylvia Grass, a representative of CIR, said stagnant wages and increased healthcare costs equal a pay cut for resident doctors this year.

“We have a resident doctor that went to school here, is finishing his residency here, and he wants to remain here. But for his family, it’s literally choosing between a job he loves and a community he loves that he’s built roots in for years and years, or financial stability,” Grass said. “When you’re a parent and a spouse you have to consider all of those things. It really puts the doctors who want to be here in a lose-lose situation.”

Grass said medical care is cheaper for patients who walk in than it is for doctors who actually work at the hospital.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

“You have to wonder what is wrong with the culture at UNMH with the treatment of workers and the pay and the benefit package, that you could quit and pay less money for your health insurance than as a doctor at this hospital,” Grass said.

MacIver said the hospital consistently fails to retain employees.

“The citizens of the state deserve better,” she said. “They deserve the only trauma-one teaching hospital in this state to be proactive in retaining and recruiting, not have this ‘we can replace you’ attitude about the bedside healthcare providers.”

Diana Kent, an operating room nurse, said one of her coworkers has only received one raise in ten years.

“We’re losing a lot of staff because they’re not wanting to stay for this much money. They’re people who have been here for thirty years,” she said.

MacIver also said the hospital is losing experienced employees, which affects the very people the are hired to serve: the patients.

“Nobody comes into healthcare knowing everything,” she said. “You have to be mentored, and that’s why you need to keep the experienced people.”

Alyssa Cundari Roelans, a staff member for CIR, said workers deserve to be compensated fairly.

“It’s really important for us to come together as workers for UNMH,” she said. “There’s been many examples of UNM not treating their workers fairly.”

Roelans said resident physicians have it particularly hard, working 80 to 100 hours a week with substantial medical school debt, but barely making minimum wage.

Sylvia Grass said she is disheartened to see administrators receive $100,000 bonuses while working-class employees fail to receive raises.

HSC created a position for current UNM President Bob Frank that will pay him at least $350,000 a year, according to a Board of Regents statement.

“That’s a lot of money,” Grass said. “How many raises would that have covered? Would that have made it a little bit easier for working class workers at the hospital?”

Frank recently announced he would step down as University president at the end of this school year, when his term ends. He will then begin working at HSC, although most of the University is in a hiring freeze.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, 57 Health Sciences Center employees are paid over $200,000 a year and have all received at least one 10 percent raise in the last two fiscal years.

Only one other employee in the entire University also fit those criteria.

“We’re all being told the same thing: there is no money,” MacIver said. “This hospital has consistently, over the last 10 years, had surplus revenue. So to come to us and say, ‘We don’t have money for the general people, but we do have money for these people’ — that’s unfair. It’s unequitable and it’s unfair.”

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Daily Lobo