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Occupy Winston-Salem protests mass layoffs by Novant Health, Inc.

By B.J. Murphy

Occupy Winston Salem protesting the mass layoff by Novant.

Winston-Salem, NC – On June 6, over a dozen activists of Occupy Winston-Salem and the community gathered outside Forsyth Medical Center to protest against the mass layoff of 289 workers by Novant Health, Inc. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, Novant Health employs over 25,000 workers, operating 13 different hospitals, from North Carolina all the way to Georgia.

Picketing between Silas Creek Parkway and Hawthorne Road, the solidarity was very high as hundreds of passersby honked in support, with either a wave or fist outside their windows, while thousands more were at least able to get a glimpse of Occupy’s resistance against job cuts. Some of those who honked in solidarity were employees of Forsyth Medical Center, including an ambulance truck.

Debra Demske, member of Occupy Winston-Salem, said, “One woman who drove by on Wednesday shouted out her car window that she was laid off after 27 years. If the company is acting with integrity, why does it need to have every employee escorted by security to the door?”

Tony Ndege of Occupy Winston-Salem states, “Novant brought in extra private security staff from Charlotte to show their newly laid-off employees the door like criminals. Novant Health, just like any other big business, is primarily concerned about the next quarter and presenting growth figures for its board. The bottom dollar is the bottom line for Novant, not loyalty to its workers or its customers.”

The reason for these job cuts, according to Novant, is the national mandate by ‘Obamacare’ to lower health care costs. However, in the month of April of 2011 alone, Novant accumulated a net income of $1 million. In 2010 they made $158 million, and another $197 million the year before that. By the end of 2011 their revenue had risen to $3.43 billion, leaving everyone to question where all this money is going and why almost 300 workers have to suffer as a result by having their jobs slashed.

Of the 289 workers to be laid off by Novant, 82 are of managing positions, while the remaining 207 are staff. In response, Novant claims that 10-15% of those laid off will be relocated, but in lower positions with less pay, such as clinical and patient care.

“The management of Novant,” said Debra Demske, “does not have the best interests of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, or North Carolina in mind when making management decisions if this is the kind of decisions they make. The actions of Novant management clearly indicate that the compensation of the Novant management team is the number one consideration of cost-saving decisions for the company.”

Demske continues, “And what about the effect on the local community that they are supposed to be supporting with their tax-free status? What about adjacent losses? How many Novant jobs equal one cashier job at a local market? Those 289 jobs were not the only job losses, but there is no entity that will study the impact of these job losses because the companies that control the research also control the jobs.”

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