Service workers fighting for higher wages remained at loggerheads with Johns Hopkins Hospital on Friday as they ended a three-day strike over higher wages — and said they could walk off the job again.

Hopkins officials had not presented a counterproposal Friday and had not scheduled additional bargaining. The workers, members of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East labor union, reported back to work at 6 p.m., but likely will organize a second strike if the hospital doesn't propose an adequate contract, union officials said.


"They have got to come back with something better," said Carrietta Hiers, a union organizer. "If it is not done, we will give the 10-day notice and we will be back to strike again."

Hopkins issued a statement saying it would continue to bargain, but said no firm dates were set.

"We remain hopeful that continued good faith efforts towards negotiating will result in a contract that all parties feel is fair and equitable," the statement said.

The union has been pushing for a $15 minimum wage for workers with at least 15 years of experience in the first year of a proposed four-year contract, with every Hopkins worker earning at least $14 an hour by the end of the contract. Workers now make between $10.71 to $27.88 per hour, depending on their job.

Hopkins has not spoken publicly about its proposal, but members of the union bargaining committee said the hospital offered a five-year contract with annual raises no higher than 2 percent and a minimum wage of $12.25 an hour.

In a letter on The Baltimore Sun's opinion page, the hospital's top executive defended the hospital's employee compensation and expressed optimism about coming to an agreement with the union.

In the talks, "we are striving to balance several different financial priorities within a finite pool of funds, to continue the kind of care people expect from us and to offer competitive compensation to all our employees to preserve job security," said Ronald R. Peterson, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Bonnie Windsor, the hospital's vice president of human resources, called the union proposal cost-prohibitive this week and said it could lead to layoffs. She also said Hopkins and other area hospitals face an uncertain financial future because of a plan adopted by the state this year that eliminates a system in which hospitals are paid based on the number of patients they admit and calls for more treatment in places other than hospitals.

The union argues its wage proposal would add just $2.4 million to the hospital's payroll costs in the first year of a new contract. Hopkins' total payroll in fiscal year 2013 was $754 million, and the new proposal would cost the hospital an additional 0.32 percent in the first year of a new contract, union officials added.

Hopkins officials said the strike did not affect patient care. Managers, nonunion workers and hired temporary staff are performing the duties of the striking workers, Windsor said.

The union represents 2,000 housekeepers, cooks, surgical technicians and other workers. Some of the unionized workers reported to work, although Hopkins would not say how many.

Hopkins officials have said they are trying to reach a settlement that's fair to everyone and reflects financial responsibility on the part of the hospital, which employs 20,000 workers.

The workers say they need a raise because they are living in poverty. Although their salary packages include health benefits, many can't afford to add their children, who end up on Medicaid. Others work side jobs or juggle bills, paying parts of them one month and the rest the next.

Striking employees have spent the past three days in front of the hospital's main entrance on Orleans Street, walking with picket signs and chanting about the need for more money.


"Hey. Hey. Ho. Ho. Poverty wage got to go," they sang out Friday. "We got to pay our bills. We got to pay our rent. Ask Hopkins where the money went."

Dorothy Cole, 24, has worked as a Hopkins housekeeper for seven years. She started at $9.91 an hour and now makes $11.49 an hour. She said she lives at home with her parents because she can't afford to go out on her own.

"It's not fair not to have enough money to survive," she said.

Angela Johnson has worked 15 different jobs during her 38 years at Hopkins. The 56-year-old, now a physical therapist technician making $16 an hour, said she doesn't always have enough to pay her bills and has no savings.

"I can't bank any money," she said. "It's paycheck to paycheck."

Hopkins and the other workers have won the support and sympathy of some Hopkins doctors and students, including about 100 who signed a letter sent to Peterson.

"Though we are neither union negotiators nor experts in this hospital's finances, we believe that Hopkins should be able to afford to pay its employees a higher wage to lift them out of poverty and enrich our Baltimore community," the letter said. "We strongly urge you to negotiate with SEIU 1199 to end poverty wages at the Johns Hopkins Hospital now."

Some of the supporters showed up Friday and spoke before the strikers. Samuel Scharff and Nicky Mehtani, both third-year medical students at Hopkins, waded into the protest wearing their white coats. One of the students, Ryan Lange, later read the letter to the employees.

"We live and work at Hopkins, and a defining feature of our experience here is … our co-workers," Scharff told a reporter. "It's extremely important to us that our co-workers get treated fairly, which helps us work better as a team to make good on our mission to the people of Baltimore. Its a no-brainer for us to be out here."

Unidentified students from the School of Public Health also told the employees how they learn in their classes about the harmful effects of poverty, and how a living wage directly impacts public health.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.