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Johns Hopkins Resumes Talks With Union Over Low Wages

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BALTIMORE (AP) — A union representing 2,000 workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital is in negotiations with the medical institution over workers’ wages after Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley stepped in to stop a planned four-day strike.

Talks between the union and the hospital resumed Tuesday after a previous round of negotiations stalled last week when the medical institution and the union failed to agree on a minimum wage for all Hopkins workers, with the union pushing for $14 an hour and the medical institution settling on $12.25.

The workers are made up of kitchen staff, maintenance workers and environmental services employees, including floor technicians and area cleaners responsible for changing patients’ linens, sterilizing rooms and floors, and discarding medical waste.

The SEIU1199 United Healthcare Workers East union, have been in negotiations with the hospital since March. They went on strike in April after the union rejected Johns Hopkins’ offer of a $12 an hour minimum wage. Temporary workers covered shifts while the workers were on strike.

The union is asking for a $15 minimum wage for workers with 15 years of experience in 2015. The hospital agreed to the wage, but said it would implement the increase in 2018.

In a statement, Johns Hopkins said it is “continuing to negotiate in good faith to reach a settlement that’s fair to everyone and reflects financial responsibility on the part of the hospital.”

According to SEIU spokesman Jim McNeil, the union received reports from doctors and nurses that the hospital “really ground down” during the last strike.

“There’s a whole host of specialized cleaning that needs to be done right to maintain the incredibly high standards a hospital needs to maintain to prevent infection,” McNeil said. “You can’t just hire temps to do it.”

Michelle Horton, 28, has worked in the kitchen at Johns Hopkins for nine years and makes $11.35 an hour. Horton said she, her three young children and her mother share a two-bedroom apartment.

“We all just want to be paid what we’re worth,” Horton said. “Without food service workers, patients don’t eat. Without the environmental services workers, the hospital is not being cleaned. Without information processes workers, nobody can have surgery. Without the scrub techs, the doctors cannot be scrubbed in to do surgeries. Maintenance does everything to make the hospital run. Whether the hospital wants to acknowledge us or not, we play a significant role in running this establishment.”

Wiley Rhymer, 38, a floor technician who has worked at Johns Hopkins for two years and makes $11.19 an hour, said he is concerned that the hospital’s wages will set the precedent for other employers since the institution is one of the largest employers in the state.

“If their wages are low, everyone else will follow suit,” he said.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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