Dozens of health care workers at Faulkner Hospital Tuesday afternoon walked off the job to protest what they said is unfair treatment by Mass General Brigham. In a coordinated action, hospital staff poured out the hospital doors at noon and into the street, holding colorful signs reading “Respect us, protect us.”

The workers, represented by SEIU Union 1199, said hospital administrators have refused to raise their wages and "treat them with respect" during and as the pandemic recedes. At issue are what SEIU 1199 describes as "desperately" low wages and staffing shortages at the Jamaica Plain facility. Faulkner joined the Mass General Brigham network in 1998.

Many drivers passing by the protest on Centre Street honked their horns in a show of support for the workers, whose ranks include housekeepers, social workers, orderlies, nursing assistants and others.

People holding signs line the sidewalk outside a hospital building on a winter day.
Dozens of workers at Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain walked off the job Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.
Phillip Martin GBH News

Ed Grant, a mental health counselor, volunteered to speak for the mainly Black and immigrant workforce, of which he is a part.

"We worked through the whole pandemic, and we got absolutely no pay raises, we didn’t get bonuses or anything," he said, "and right now the hospital’s into expansion, but they [are] not doing expansion of our checks and things like that. And we been stuck in the same pay range for three years now."

In a written statement, Mass General said its goal is to reach a fair agreement that supports and recognizes "the critical work of our staff in providing high-quality care to our patients."

But the union said the hospital has not lived up to its word. A union spokesman said the hospital had failed to assist its least financially stable employees.

"At one of the richest healthcare institutions in Massachusetts, it is inexcusable that caregivers are earning as little as $15.45 an hour," the spokesman said. "Healthcare workers have faced unimaginable hardship and made incredible sacrifices over the past three years, and deserve better."

Grant said the hospital had not budged on wages after months of negotiations. He said Tuesday's walkout was their way of showing they "meant business."

"And its not that we’re aking for too much. We’re just asking for the cost of living raise," Grant said. "The minimum wage right now is $15, which hasn’t moved in three years. There’s been absolutely no changes in the wages at all."