Congresswoman Summer Lee Announces State of the Union Guest: Nila Payton, Organizer for Hospital Workers Rising 

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)– Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12) announced Nila Payton, Organizer for Hospital Workers Rising, will be her guest for President Biden’s State of the Union address.

Congresswoman Lee said, “No hospital worker should be in medical debt to their employer–especially when that employer rakes in billions on the backs of Pittsburgh taxpayers each year. I’ve been proud to fight alongside Nila Payton since my days as a State House Rep and it’s been a privilege to stand in solidarity with the movement she has built organizing for livable wages, safe conditions, and collective bargaining power for all Pittsburgh Hospital Workers. The State of Our Union is strong because of the strength of workers like Nila, and my fight for our workers in Congress has only just begun.”

Congresswoman Lee has been on the frontlines of Hospital Workers Risings’ battle with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) since her days in the State House, appearing in the upcoming documentary, Inhospitable

In January, Lee and State Representative Sara Innamorato held a press conference at the release of a new report with the American Economic Liberties Project detailing the harms of UPMC’s monopoly and monopsony power on hospital workers and patients in the Pittsburgh area.

VIDEO of the press conference is available here

During the press conference, Lee said, “The reason my community in Braddock saw our only hospital and our largest employer shut down back in 2010 is the same reason why Pittsburgh is facing a hospital staffing crisis today — the same reason why our nurses and health aides are struggling to bargain for dignified wages and safer conditions — the same reason our doctors are trapped by non-compete contracts, and the same reason my constituents are being ripped off by soaring health and cheated out of their tax-dollars: UPMC’s monopoly power has gone too damn far. We have the power to stand up for our hospital workers and patients  — and I’m ready to use every federal, state, and local tool to hold UPMC accountable so Western PA has the affordable health care we’ve deserved all along.”

The report shows that UPMC’s anti-competitive behavior is contributing to the ongoing workforce crisis in Pittsburgh hospitals by limiting where hospital workers can work, how much they can make, and how they can advance their careers – all while undermining the quality of care patients receive. In a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh last spring, 93 percent of hospital workerssurveyed said that they think of leaving their jobs every month and 90 percent reported not having the staff for the workload they are given.

Full Bio: Nila Payton lives in East Hills, PA, with her husband and two of her 3 sons. She has worked at UPMC as an Administrative Assistant in the pathology department for the last 17 years. Nila works long and hard hours every day to keep UPMC hospitals running, so they can continue to provide some of the best healthcare in the country.

Nila is one of countless UPMC employees who have become hundreds and thousands of dollars in medical debt to UPMC – which is not only her employer, but also her insurer and medical care provider. When Nila had her youngest son, she assumed that prenatal care was covered by her UPMC insurance, as it had been in the past, only to discover that she was being billed for it. While her son spent the first week of his life in the NICU, she was billed every day. Three months after having her baby, Nila had to have her gallbladder removed and was again billed a $150 co-pay for the ER visit. That ER co-pay has only gone up since. Between giving birth to her child, her ER visit, and an ER visit for her adventurous 4 year old at the time, Nila ended up $4000 in debt to her own employer. Eventually, UPMC’s billing department encouraged her to apply for Medicaid and sent her debt to collections.

Nila got involved in organizing a union at UPMC when she shared her story for a wage review report. Since then, Nila has led her co-workers on several unfair labor practice strikes and has been a fierce advocate for the right to form a union and for everyone being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. She has lobbied legislators to help build the fight for union rights and even traveled to Los Angeles to help push for SEIU’s Unions For All agenda. Nila is a true leader always ready to step up to the plate to lead her co-workers in the fight for livable wages, safe work conditions, and collective bargaining power–which Congresswoman Lee will be a champion for. 

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