On April 16th a coalition of Pittsburghers fed up with corporations who do not pay their fair share descended on the US Steel tower to demand a conversation with UPMC’s CEO Jeffery Romoff.
UPMC is the second largest private employer and the largest private landowner in Allegheny County. It would have reported taxable income in the range of $471 million were it a for-profit company.
However, it is a non-profit company with the benefit of dodging $204 million in taxes from its property, income, and interest rate payments on bonds.
The protest, hosted by Pittsburgh United and supported by One Pittsburgh, intended to present CEO Jeffery Romoff, who is paid $4 million a year himself , with a “tax bill” listing the money owed to the city of Pittsburgh in lieu the services to the city it has not performed as a non-profit.
Because it is not required to pay taxes, there is the belief that UPMC should serve the community to the fullest extent. UPMC arguably does not do all that it can for Pittsburgh in a time of high unemployment and ailing education and transportation budgets – a time when help is needed the most from a so-called charitable organization.
It has shown that it is unwilling to keep hospitals open , that it is instead willing to spend millions of dollars in advertising and the building of facilities in the suburbs to drive out rival hospitals that serve the area already , and that it has no problem compensating its executives with salaries in the millions.
Its behavior strongly suggests that it instead operates implicitly as a for-profit corporation, and thus many people believe that it should be taxed so the money can be best served for the people of the city. If UPMC paid taxes, it would still have had $267 million in “profits” left over – an impressive haul for a non-profit.
The protest started at the Wood Street Station, evoking the tax money that could be used to fund our transit system in a time when budget cuts are crippling service. From there, it moved through the streets to the US Steel tower, now branded by UPMC to show their dominance over the city.
After peaceably assembling on the steps outside, security would not allow a small group of people to talk to Jeffery Romoff, instead insuring that “somebody” would come speak. Shockingly, no UPMC figure came down to talk to the group.
Still, as a strong sentiment grows against those of our society that do not pay their fair show, UPMC will not be able to avoid the 99% of Pittsburgh. As the protest concluded several speakers repeated that we WILL be back and that UPMC will sooner or later have to account for its actions.