If Hopkins can afford to pay its CEO so much, it can afford living wages [Letter]

Johns Hopkins Hospital President Ronald R. Peterson, defends his decision to restrain raises for Hopkins employees by citing the hospital's "finite pool of funds." ("Balancing priorities and resources at Johns Hopkins," April 11.)

That finite pool must look a little larger when it comes time for Hopkins executives to dole out raises to themselves.

In fiscal year 2012, the latest year for which the hospital has released figures, Mr. Peterson's base pay and bonus grew 7.5 percent. And due to an expansion of his pension benefit, Mr. Peterson's total compensation in 2012 increased a whopping 86.5 percent.

In contrast, Hopkins is offering its union employees a raise of just 1.5 percent in the first year of a five-year contract, and no annual raise higher than 2 percent in any year of the contract.

Mr. Peterson argues that Hopkins' pay is generous when compared to Maryland's current minimum wage. He boasts that the starting pay for union employees, $10.71 an hour, is 48 percent higher than Maryland's current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

That seems like a pretty modest standard for America's top hospital. Unfortunately, that standard would drop even further under the contract Hopkins is proposing.

In 2018, when Maryland's minimum will rise to $10.10 an hour, Hopkins wants to increase its minimum starting rate to just $11.68 an hour. That's only 16 percent higher than Maryland's new minimum wage.

To keep its minimum wage 48 percent higher than the state's, Hopkins will need to raise its starting pay to $14.95 an hour in 2018. In fact, that's very close to the $15 an hour fair wage our union has been fighting for in ongoing contract talks — and that Mr. Peterson and the hospital have been fighting against.

I hope Mr. Peterson will again look at the hospital's finite pool of funds and realize it's not the deep end of the pool that needs more money. Rather, it's the shallow end, where so many of his employees now struggle to keep their heads above water.

John Reid

The writer is the executive vice president for the Maryland/DC region of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

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