A coalition of labor groups on Thursday filed an antitrust complaint with the Justice Department against UPMC, the giant Pittsburgh-based hospital employer, accusing the system of using its enormous clout to depress wages and harm workers.
In its complaint, the group, which includes S.E.I.U. Healthcare Pennsylvania, claims UPMC workers are subject to a “wage penalty” because of the health system’s dominance in local markets. The complaint describes nurses who are given heavier workloads than nurses at other hospitals, creating concerns over patient safety, and catalogs what the coalition considers to be labor law violations that it says illustrate the powerlessness of employees to improve working conditions.
“We have watched UPMC grow and amass power,” said Matthew Yarnell, the president of the S.E.I.U. group there, which has long sought to organize workers at the health system, which is largely not unionized. After a series of acquisitions, it is Pennsylvania’s largest private employer with more than 40 hospitals, 800 doctors’ offices and clinics, and a health plan. With operating revenue of $26 billion last year, it employs about 95,000 people.
While antitrust cases frequently address how powerful organizations can operate as monopolies and unfairly raise prices, a company can also be accused of operating as a monopsony in which it exerts unfair leverage over suppliers, including employees.