South Austin Coalition joined with the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice (OPCTJ) and union activists in a peaceful protest march Monday on Dr. King’s birthday. The protest march began at Austin Boulevard Church (634 N. Austin) and proceeded down Austin Boulevard to Erie, where West Suburban Hospital is located.

In a letter signed by SACCC’s Elce Redmond and OPCTJ’s William Barclay, sent on Jan. 8 to CEO Jay Kreuzer, the coalitions requested a meeting to present petitions that called for a halt to alleged discrimination at West Suburban Medical Center. The letter also called for a halt to discriminatory practices against the uninsured-specifically in charging uninsured patients the full markup costs and failing to provide adequate financial aid to patients.

African-American and Latino housekeeping employees have filed several charges with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, including discrimination in pay, discrimination in work assignments, and racially disparaging comments made by management.

Speaking on behalf of SACCC, Monique Moore read the following statement: “You know numbers mean something and when everyone can get together on the same accord for a purpose that is really important, I think the impact is much greater. Our organization has worked over 30 years to improve the lives of people living in the Austin area. That is why I am here today. We’re here to confront racism that hurts African-American and Latino workers, that hurts residents in the community who rely on West Suburban Medical Center for health care. Dr. King’s birthday is a reminder of the importance and forthrightness confronting problems in our society. We are outraged to learn that racially derogatory language is being used toward employees by their supervisors, that black and Latino employees are paid less than white employees with less seniority. That black and Latino employees face discriminatory treatment every day in many different ways. We want West Suburban to know that we find that unacceptable. We will not allow it to go on.

“When Resurrection Health Care took over several years ago, our members began telling us things were changing. What we learned through research was that the changes were isolated incidents, but [there was] a systematic focus on budgets instead of on patients and community needs. We learned that West Suburban charges people who don’t have insurance much higher rates than they charge insurance companies for the same care. Since most uninsured West Suburban residents are African American, we find once again that West Suburban policies are hurting our community. We have a very simple message to deliver to West Suburban today. Discrimination in all forms most stop now.”

William Barclay of the OPCTJ told the crowd, “We call on West Suburban to live up to the legacy of the man we honor today and the diversity statement of the community where they are located.”

Other speakers included a “fired” employee and Oak Park Trustee Robert Milstein.

A delegation of nine protesters went inside to deliver the petitions to CEO Jay Kreuzer.