Hopkins has the money to pay a living wage [Letter]

According to its mission statement, Johns Hopkins Hospital seeks "to afford solace and enhance the surrounding community." This goal is hardly consistent with the poverty-level wages paid by that fine institution to its core employees ("Balancing priorities and resources at Johns Hopkins," April 11).

Twenty-five percent of the employees who engaged in a three-day strike last week earn so little that they are officially considered to be living in poverty while 70 percent of them earn so little that they qualify for food stamps.

The Hopkins management expresses sympathy, but asserts, "You can only give so much if you want to preserve jobs. There is a finite amount of money." That finite amount, however, is rather large: The 2012 Hopkins Hospital tax return shows that this nonprofit institution earned $84,624,333 more than it spent that year. This is more than 28 times the amount needed to pay all Hopkins employees a decent wage.

Perhaps the Hopkins workers can take solace in the fact that 13 Hopkins employees are paid more than $500,000 per year, including five whose income exceeds $1 million. If, as the workers have proposed, the minimum wage at Hopkins were increased to $15 per hour, the CEO of the hospital would be paid only 112 times that amount, compared to the current salary differential of 156:1.

At the conclusion of 2012 (the latest data available), Johns Hopkins Hospital had $468,383,370 in investments; only 0.6 percent of that amount is needed to pay employees a decent wage this year. What better investment could Hopkins make than in the well-being of its employees?

The website of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, an internationally recognized institution, states that "in public health … we identify the causes of disease and disability and we implement large scale solutions." Since poverty is a primary cause of disease, disability and poor health outcomes, a livable wage is an effective health intervention.

President Barack Obama has called income inequality "the defining challenge of our time." Johns Hopkins Hospital truly can be No. 1 by leading the health care industry in meeting that challenge. Hopkins should "afford solace and enhance the surrounding community" and remain true to its mission.

Lauren Siegel and Jeff Singer, Baltimore

To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad