Balancing priorities and resources at Johns Hopkins [Commentary]

As we at The Johns Hopkins Hospital enter day three of a labor strike, we want to assure our community that we are continuing to provide uninterrupted services to our patients, and we want to restate our priorities of caring about our patients, our community and our employees.

We highly value our employees represented by labor union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. Each one is part of our team and vital to the world-class care we provide. We want to thank the employees who have come to work, and we want to assure our union-represented colleagues who have been out that we will welcome them back. We also want to thank all of our staff for their continued exemplary dedication during these circumstances.


In our discussions with 1199SEIU, 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.

With our compensation comes one of the most generous benefits packages we know of offered by any employer. Our compensation includes benefits such as health care coverage, pensions and education and tuition reimbursement.


As an educational institution, we make it a priority to help our employees with their children's college tuition because it helps advance careers.

Several years ago, we extended to all our employees a tuition benefit package that once was only in place for some leadership staff. We pay up to half of the tuition at any accredited college or university for the children of all our employees, including our union employees. That benefit could amount to over $20,000 dollars per year, per child, per family.

Here are some of the other valuable benefits we offer our employees to promote advancement:

•1. We reimburse employees who enroll in college courses and advance the money for those making less than $35,000 a year so they will not have to pay out of pocket.

•2. We have a joint training fund that covers the cost of certificate programs for our employees and a free skills-enhancement program that helps employees improve their math, reading and English-as-a-second-language abilities. Many of these programs can be completed during the employee's work hours.

•3. We also have a program that will pay some employees' wages while they study for critical jobs such as nursing.

Further demonstrating our commitment to fair compensation, our current starting rate already exceeds the newly enacted state minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, which goes into effect in 2018 in Maryland. It is our intention that by 2018 our starting salary will be substantially higher than the minimum wage. To put this in another perspective, our starting rate today exceeds the current Maryland minimum wage of $7.25 by 48 percent. In addition, with our more highly skilled positions within the bargaining unit, our employees have the opportunity to start at wages that exceed $50,000 per year.

Throughout this process, we have been grateful for the civility and understanding of everyone who contributes to making us the best hospital in the nation — our patients, our staff, our visitors, our community and our donors.


As always, we are optimistic that we can step into the future together with our SEIU-represented employees as partners in care. We know we can reach a settlement that is fair to everyone and reflects financial responsibility on the part of the hospital.

We thank all our staff and employees for their dedication. We remain very grateful to all.

Ronald R. Peterson is president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. He can be reached at

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