Monday, April 16, 2012

Protesters try to give UPMC its Tax Bill

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Protesters, led by Pittsburgh United’s Barney Oursler, attempt to enter UPMC Tower on Grant Street Monday afternoon.
  • Protesters, led by Pittsburgh United’s Barney Oursler, attempt to enter UPMC Tower on Grant Street Monday afternoon.

About 100 protesters marched to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Grant Street headquarters for a lively Tax Day protest of the non-profit's non-existent tax contribution to city, state and county coffers.

We know what would happen to us if we didn't pay our taxes don't we?" asked the Rev. David Thorton of the Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church and a member of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network. They call this a charity hospital, well what kind of charity is this?"

For years the tax payments, or lack thereof, by non-profits has been a bone of contention for both public officials and community activists. Currently the only money given by non-profits like hospitals and universities comes in the form of voluntary donations.

UPMC, for example, donates money for the Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship fund totaling about $1 million every year. Meanwhile, the healthcare giant saw revenues last year of $9 billion.

The crowd, led by Pittsburgh United's Barney Oursler, wanted to present the company with a bill for the roughly $204 million in taxes they claim the company would have to pay if they weren't a non-profit." They chanted phrases like: Jeffrey Romoff you can't hide, we can see your greedy side" to the oft-criticized UPMC CEO.

Protesters gave speeches on the steps outside the company's Grant Street location before attempting to enter the building. They were met by security and caused congestion at the front entrance for a few minutes before being told that a representative of UPMC would come down and speak with them if they returned to the steps.

But to the surprise of no one in attendance, officials refused to come down but offered to allow one person to bring the bill" up to their offices. The protesters, likewise, declined.

The action is the first of several this week sponsored by local groups and organizations. At noon Tuesday in Market Square, Occupy Pittsburgh will sponsor Tax Dodger Dodge Ball. On Wednesday, One Pittsburgh will hold an anti-fracking action from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. outside of the EQT shareholders meeting at 625 Liberty Ave. Later that day from noon to 1 p.m., volunteers will be meeting outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles on Smithfield Street to both protest the state's voter identification bill and help individuals get a free state ID so they can vote — a birth certificate and two documents establishing residence are required.



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