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Teamsters, Religious Leaders Call on Ascension Health to Respect Rights of Workers, Patients and Communities

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 nonprofit hospital chain to respect its workers and patients, and the health care rights of the communities it serves.


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

Company Overview

  • Ascension Health is headquartered at 4600 Edmundson Road, St. Louis, MO 63134. The phone number is 314-733-8000.
  • Ascension Health is the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit health system, and is comprised of 37 health systems or centers in 20 states, totaling over 570 hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, labs, and other facilities. Ascension was formed in 1999 through the merger of the Daughters of Charity Health System and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, and the subsequent acquisition of nine hospitals operated by the Catholic Carondelet Health System.
  • By revenue, Ascension is America’s third-largest health system. Ascension also employs 113,000 people nationwide. Ascension Health is classified by the IRS as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Without its non-profit status, Ascension would be number 220 on the Fortune 500.
  • The President and CEO of Ascension Health is Anthony Tersigni, EdD, FACHE. He was appointed to this position in 2004 after serving as COO and Executive Vice President of Ascension since 2001. Tersigni was recruited into hospital management from his post as the finance director with the Republican Party of South East Michigan. Tersigni’s total compensation was $2.75 million in 2008.
  • For the year ending June 30, 2009, Ascension’s total operating revenue was $14.3 billion and total income from operations was $371 million. Ascension ended the year with net assets of $8.3 billion. Thirty-seven percent of Ascension’s net patient service revenue is paid by Medicare. Another twenty percent is paid by state Medicaid programs.
  • Ascension is contracted to build a $60 million drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Saudi Arabia.
  • Ascension was criticized by public officials and the NAACP for closing hospitals in poor areas of Detroit and opening new ones in wealthy suburbs.

Health Care Professionals at Ascension/Genesys Health System

  • Genesys Health System, a member of Ascension Health, provides health care services in the Flint, MI area, serving primarily the counties of Genesee, Shiawassee, Lapeer, Oakland, Livingston, and Tuscola. For the year ending June 30, 2008, the Genesys Regional Medical Center, also a non-profit organization, reported total revenue of $437.3 million.
  • In December 2009, Genesys agreed to pay $669,413 plus interest and $97,500 in attorney fees in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over claims of Medicare overcharging.
  • Teamsters Local Union 332 represents over 1,000 nurses and 300 technical employees at the Ascension-affiliated Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, MI. The technical employees are currently working under a contract extension until March 17, 2010.
  • The contract for 720 nurses represented by the Michigan Nurses Association at Ascension’s Borgess Health in Kalamazoo, MI expires on March 19, 2010.
  • Genesys wants to stop the current pension fund and instead wants employees to pay for their own retirement in a tax-deferred savings plan. They want to chop wages by two percent and eliminate the health care protections that have been promised to retired workers.
  • In a community already underserved, Genesys has eliminated 50 LPN positions and wants to demote 70 more, which would mean a wage cut for many of them. Genesys also wants to eliminate all paramedic and EMT positions and may sub-contract the emergency service work.
  • Genesys nurses and technical employees are represented by Teamsters Local Union 332, 1502 South Dort Hwy, Flint, MI 48503. Nina Bugbee, President. (810) 767-7330.

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters

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SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters
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