Wisconsin Rapids, WI– On Wednesday, June 16, Aspirus Riverview Hospital workers, their families and community supporters will hold an “Action for Quality Healthcare” which will include informational picketing and a spirited rally. During the pandemic, Aspirus workers have been risking their lives and their families’ lives to provide quality, compassionate care to their community, and some were infected by COVID. But instead of recognizing their hard work and sacrifices, wealthy Asprius executives are proposing to increase workers’ family healthcare costs and make other cuts. Workers worry these cuts will not only hurt the health of themselves and their families, but could also increase turnover and worsen understaffing throughout the hospital. Meanwhile, Aspirus has raked in massive profits and taxpayer bailouts, and compensated the CEO with over $1.3 million in one year.
“I love to make patients feel nourished and comforted through my baking and cooking, and we get a lot of positive feedback from them and their families about the food at Riverview,” said Carol Koeshall, who has been a cook and baker at the hospital for 39 years. “Working through the pandemic has been really scary. I’m 61 years old and my husband has heart problems, so I was constantly worried about getting infected or accidentally bringing the virus home to him. But my coworkers and I kept showing up every day, doing our jobs because we’re dedicated to keeping the hospital operating for our community. I have multiple coworkers who were infected with COVID and some got very sick. After all we’ve been through, and all the huge profits Aspirus has made, executives should show that they appreciate us. Instead, they’re getting these gigantic pay packages and threatening to cut our benefits. Honestly, that makes me feel like they just consider us warm bodies that are replaceable. We’re committed to our jobs and want to stay here at Riverview, and we need Aspirus to value the contributions of the frontline workers who actually make the hospital run.”
Workers say that Aspirus’s actions reflect one of the most destructive trends in America–lavishly rewarding top executives while essential workers struggle to survive–and are contrary to Wisconsin values. Aspirus had massive profits of more than $184 million for the fiscal year ending last June, and Riverview’s profits were over $22 million for the same period. Many Aspirus executives were working from the safety of their homes or offices, rather than on the front lines, but earning huge pay packages at the “non-profit.” The CEO, Matt Heywood had total compensation of more than $1.3 million in 2019, the most recent year that IRS data is available.
Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Aspirus received more than $52 million in bailouts from taxpayers. Community members want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are going to patient care and the employees who actually work on the front lines, not just enormous executive pay packages.
In recent union contract negotiations with nursing assistants, environmental service specialists, dietary workers and laundry workers who are members of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, Aspirus executives have demanded a range of benefit cuts. Their proposals include significantly increasing the amount that full-time employees pay for the Aspirus-run family health plan. Executives have also demanded to cut benefits for long term workers while on medical leave; increase dental insurance costs; and even take away Christmas Eve holiday pay for many workers. Instead of rewarding employees with a decade or more of service, Aspirus is proposing just a one percent raise, which would not be implemented until the end of December.
The workers’ union contract expired on December 31 last year, and they have been trying to reach a new agreement with executives for over six months. Recently an overwhelming majority of workers voted to reject Aspirus’s contract offer and signed onto a letter to CEO Matt Heywood calling on him to listen to their concerns. They pointed out that Aspirus’s own mission statement focuses on “strengthening communities,” but healthcare cuts and low wages–while top executives get more and more wealthy–undermine the health of working families throughout the entire community.
Workers earnestly hope that Aspirus will come to a fair agreement when they return to contract negotiations on June 24. If not, employees vow to hold Aspirus executives accountable through increasing actions, advertising, social media and continued outreach to community members, faith leaders, regulatory agencies and elected officials.
When: Wednesday, June 16 4:30 – 6:30 Informational picketing 5 pm Rally with speakers
Where: East Riverview Expressway at 3rd St. S., Wisconsin Rapids
Media Advisory For: Wednesday, June 16
Contact: Dave Bates, firstname.lastname@example.org, 347-865-8038
SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin is the state’s largest and fastest-growing healthcare workers union, and their mission is to win quality care and good jobs for all. They represent thousands of hospital, nursing home, home care, and social service workers.