8 workers arrested at Touchette Regional Hospital during protest

News-DemocratDecember 5, 2013 

BNDVIDEO

— Police arrested eight people who were protesting outside Touchette Regional Hospital on Thursday over their low pay.

Some of the eight included members of the SEIU Healthcare who work at the hospital who joined a group of about 25 other union members and fast-food workers standing outside the hospital's front doors at 5900 Bond Ave. They said some of the hospital workers have not received a raise is six years. The police handcuffed the protesters after they refused to leave the front entry outside the hospital about a half hour after the demonstration began.

According to the union, those who were arrested were child care worker Deandra Tunstall, hospital housekeeping employee Tangi Holman, union secretary and treasurer Myra Glassman, union staff representative Bryan Evans, St. Louis fast-food employee Wes McEnany, union member and St. Louis Hospital employee Willie Wilson and union member Takia Yates. Those arrested were chanting "No justice, no peace!"

Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation in Sauget operates Touchette and other health centers across the region that serves mostly low-income residents. A representative from the foundation could not be reached for comment Thursday.

A representative from the Centreville Police Department could not be reached for comment about the arrests.

The protest was planned for 3 p.m. Thursday. Hospital employee Lashonda Paulette, of Cahokia, said as the crowd gathered, the hospital doors were locked in an attempt to keep more workers from joining the protest.

Patient registration and admitting clerk Crystal Collins said she found herself locked in before finding a way out.

"I know some other doors, so me and another co-worker snuck out another door," Collins said.

"They're locking us in and this is what they do," Paulette said. "They don't want us to fight for anything or something that they can give us. They still, somehow want to have us enslaved. This is an enslaved mentality they have put over us."

According to the union, the hospital made a $3.1 million net profit in fiscal year 2011 and $4.1 million net profit in fiscal year 2012. The union also claims that Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation has received more than $37 million in federal grants and increased net assets by $7.2 million since fiscal year 2012. Touchette Regional Hospital has recently expanded its behavioral health unit.

"They're rebuilding and adding to this building, but they say they have no money to give the employees a raise," Collins said. "I haven't had a raise in three years."

The protest coincided with a national protest of fast-food workers held Thursday continuing to push for a higher minimum wage. Demonstrations were held in several cities across the country, including St. Louis. Jeanina Jenkins was among some of those workers who joined the protest outside the metro-east hospital.

"Their fight is our fight," the 20-year-old McDonald's employee said. "We also feel like we deserve more and that's why we're here."

"I hope it works," said Belleville resident Barbara Green, a registered nurse at the hospital.

"We just want across-the-board fair wages, and they won't even give us that," Paulette said. "They're not offering us a penny. We are not giving up until we get raises. We're not giving up."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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