Hospital workers, community leaders call on Gundersen Health System to raise starting wage to $15/hr

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Hospital workers and community leaders gathered at Riverside Park Monday afternoon, calling on Gundersen Health System to pay employees a living wage.

They want the health care facility to agree to raise starting wages to $15/hr as part of negotiations with the employees’ union, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.

They said many of them put their lives at risk, work long hours, and dedicate themselves to caring for their patients.

But they go home, living paycheck to paycheck, and barely have enough to care for themselves.

“You have to decide what you want to put money toward. Obviously, you have to put it toward rent, a car payment. You want to put food on the table… Living paycheck to paycheck, you have to decide quickly where to put that money,” said Lance Helgeson, Dietary Aid at Gundersen Health System.

He said several departments at Gundersen are short-staffed and believes the lack of a living wage plays a major role in the problem.

In addition, Helgeson said Gundersen didn’t offer him or his coworkers hazard pay for working during the pandemic.

In a statement, Gundersen said, “we continue to work with union representatives from SEIU regarding an agreement. While details of negotiations with SEIU representatives remain confidential, we are committed to continuing conversations so an agreement can be reached.”