Hundreds Rally, Hold Vigils in Support of Ascension Health Workers in Flint, Mich.
ST. LOUIS, March 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 200 Teamsters and religious leaders held a rally and prayer vigil at Ascension Health's corporate headquarters in St. Louis to call on the nation's largest Catholic
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa spoke out in support of 300 technical employees, emergency technicians and licensed nurses at Ascension's Genesys Regional Medical Center in Flint, Mich., whose pay, benefits and work rules are being targeted for cuts.
"This company has lost its way -- Ascension and Genesys are supposed to serve the common good," Hoffa said. "No good will come from undermining patients and their caregivers."
More than 100 of Ascension's health care workers from Flint traveled 10 hours by bus to attend the rally and vigil. Similar vigils were held at Ascension hospitals across the country.
"We came to St. Louis because we are trying to stop Ascension management from altering important working conditions that impact the community's access to health care and the quality of care that patients receive," said Genesys registered nurse Kelly Rivera-Craine,
"Ascension Genesys wants to cut or demote licensed nurses and fire all its paramedics and EMTs. This puts patients' and the community's health at risk, especially the elderly who depend on rapid response emergency services," said Genesys EMT Rick Gatz.
Ascension workers in Flint are represented by Teamsters Local 332. Local 332's President, Nina Bugbee shared the challenges the local and workers have faced during their negotiations with the company.
"Ascension Genesys also wants to stop the current pension fund and instead wants employees to pay for their own retirement in a tax-deferred savings plan," Bugbee said. "They want to chop wages by 2 percent and eliminate the health care protections that have been promised to retired workers."
"This about solidarity," said Robert Gartner, Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 6 in St. Louis. †
"Ascension is treating its patients, its workers and its community in Flint badly. This outrageous behavior by a St. Louis corporate citizen is unacceptable. Corporate excess is a problem everywhere, and that is why we are out here today."
The Rev. Martin Rafanan, Chair of the Workers' Rights Board of Missouri Jobs with Justice, led the rally and vigil participants in prayer.
"We gather here today, Lord, in your presence and filled with hope, determined to preserve the well-being and dignity of working people, their families and the patient community," Rafanan said. "Let us do so always in faith, hope and love and in the sure knowledge that justice will certainly triumph."
Six additional prayer vigils in support of the Genesys employees were led by clergy members and attended by Teamsters and Jobs with Justice representatives. They were held today at Providence Hospital in Washington D.C.; Catholic Health Services in Buffalo, N.Y.; St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo.; Carondelet Health in Tucson, Ariz.; St. John Hospital in Detroit; and Genesys Regional Medical Center in Flint.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Fact Sheet: Ascension/Genesys Health System
Health Care Professionals at Ascension/Genesys Health System
SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters
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