Beaumont workers speak with Michigan Congresswomen about layoffs and the closing of Wayne Hospital

WAYNE, MICH. –  On Thursday, a virtual town hall featuring Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell discussed layoffs and the reopening of the Wayne Hospital with several displaced Beaumont Workers. The Town Hall also featured speakers from SEIU Healthcare Michigan, Detroit Action,  Partners for Dignity and Rights, and Center for Popular Democracy.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib demonstrated her support of SEIU workers while pushing for more protection and security for frontline workers. Tlaib said that any health systems asking for federal funds need to put workers first. 

“We don’t want anyone to use this pandemic to be coming over asking for federal funds without protection for that workforce, without the protection of ensuring you have a seat at the table,” said Tlaib. 

On Tuesday, Beaumont officially opened its Wayne Hospital, recalling 40 workers back who had previously been laid off. However, the majority of Beaumonts nearly 3,000 furloughed and laid off employees have not returned to work. 

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell expressed her frustrations at the lack of PPE and layoffs that have plagued workers in health systems all across Michigan.  Dingell said, “We need to recognize every single person in this face and their value and worth.”

The town hall highlighted the pay of Beaumont Executives prior to the pandemic. According to Ben Palmquist, Director of advocacy group Partners for Dignity and Rights, 18 Beaumont executives made over one million dollars in 2018. Then in 2019, Beaumont’s profits then doubled.  According to Palmquist, “Closing this hospital is only about greed.”

Workers Suffer Under COVID Conditions, Unforeseen Layoffs

Two Beaumont workers who had been laid off were featured during the town hall.

Estella Harding, a patient transporter at Beaumont Wayne for the past 33 years, was responsible for taking patients to and from locations within the hospital such as testing sites, x-rays, echos, and discharges. She was also responsible for taking the deceased from the floor of the morgue. 

“The morgue only holds four patients at a time and as you can imagine that filled up very quickly.” said Harding, “We felt the service workers were left behind and that our lives were in danger.”

Six weeks from the beginning of the pandemic, Beaumont announced a wave of layoffs at multiple locations. This included the temporary closing of the hospital at Beaumont Wayne. 

“When we were just starting to overcome the first wave of COVID-19, the layoffs began.” said Harding, “Last month, Beaumont sent us letters and laid nearly 300 union workers.”

Lakya Hanna was a Dietary Helper at Beaumont Taylor, where she would help prepare and serve food in the hospital cafeteria. During the town hall, she recalled the panic that set in when COVID-19 first hit. 

“There were many days I would feel stressed and overwhelmed. To cope, we would have team huddles where we would dance and try to stay positive,” said Hanna, “We tried to take all precautions to keep ourselves safe including social distancing, wearing masks, and keeping our hands clean.”

After being laid off on April 28th, Hanna applied for unemployment and took the opportunity to spend more time with her daughter. 

“It’s scary because I have a 15-year-old daughter to support,” said Hanna, “Over the past few weeks, we have spent a lot of time together and that bond has helped us get through this difficult time.”

SEIU Healthcare Michigan continues to discuss recalls with Beaumont Health of workers laid off in April. To date, over 260 union workers remain laid off. 

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