Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Schedules Hearing on Upmc Properties Health Care Giant's Tax- Exempt Status of Holdings Is Focus

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Schedules Hearing on Upmc Properties Health Care Giant's Tax- Exempt Status of Holdings Is Focus

Article excerpt

Allegheny County Council will take a look at the tax-exempt status of UPMC real estate at a public hearing Dec. 5.

"People have been asking a lot of questions about this [topic]," Councilman John DeFazio said at a council meeting last week. "It's a good idea to have this meeting and air it out properly in front of everybody."

His comment was met with loud applause from the two dozen people who attended Wednesday's council meeting to show their support for a public hearing.

Mr. DeFazio, a Democrat from Shaler, will preside at the session. It is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 5 in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse.

A recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigative series found that UPMC was the county's largest single property owner, controlling real estate valued at $1.6 billion. The health care giant has been able to claim 86 percent of its property as tax exempt as a result of its status as a charitable corporation.

The public hearing is taking place at the same time as the Service Employees International Union has been seeking to represent University of Pittsburgh Medical Center workers who do a variety of jobs.

Several speakers told council that UPMC supervisors have sought to discourage organizing efforts by the SEIU.

"We've been warned not to talk about a union," Al Turner, a UPMC shuttle driver of the North Side, told council members. "And if we do any organizing on company property, we will suffer the consequences."

Hospital secretary Leslie Poston of Wilkinsburg said the health care giant had lost sight of its mission. "The people running UPMC have forgotten that they were supposed to do something more than make a lot of money," she said.

UPMC spokesman Paul Wood called the claims that UPMC was intimidating workers who favor unionization "an outright fabrication by the SEIU."

The company was following all National Labor Relations Board rules.

"We are educating our employees about what [unionization] would mean and what things they would be giving up," Mr. Wood said. All future pay increases, for example, would depend on the results of contract negotiations rather than being automatic, he said. …

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