Vanderbilt Employees Rally About Lay Offs - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Vanderbilt Employees Rally About Lay Offs

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by Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. People who drove down 21st Avenue Friday likely saw people holding a number of signs near the entrance to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The group OurVanderbilt is a mixture of former and current employees who don't understand why so many workers have been let go without warning.

"It is what it is, I guess," said one man who claimed he lost his job after applying for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

"Two week[s] pay and a thousand dollars. Now I'm just focused on trying to move forward," said former dietitian assistant Jasmine Lewis who was let go July 1st.

Their time as employees varies from nearly two decades to just a few years.

Barbara Bolen, who was an office assistant for nearly four years, said she was shocked to hear evaluations may have been a part of the decision.

"My heart was absolutely ripped out and I wanted to call all my former bosses and say was I a good worker or not?" Bolen said.

A main theme for the group is how VUMC officials chose who to lay off. They say high-paid executives have been untouched, passing the burden to the lowest income workers.

"Why not start at the top?  Why not start with the most expensive incomes and work your way down?" asked current cook Jackie Lucas.

Chris Coleman, an attorney with the Tennessee Justice Center, is calling on Governor Haslam to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid to keep this from happening. Otherwise, he said the Affordable Care Act will mean hospitals will lose funding to cover uninsured patients, while also losing federal Medicaid dollars under the Tennessee plan.

"Things like you see today are only going to get worse. We're going to see more layoffs, more department closings. Not just at Vanderbilt, but throughout the state," Coleman said.

Friday afternoon, the Governor's spokesman David Smith said by email, "The governor and administration continue to have discussions with HHS and CMS about the Tennessee Plan, true health care reform specifically tailored for the state."

The group hopes to get answers or at least new jobs for workers.

"I wish everybody that got laid off the best of luck," Lewis said.

VUMC officials declined to comment Friday, but pointed NewsChannel 5 to an open letter about the cutbacks. There is also new information about a voluntary early retirement program for employees just released Thursday.

There's currently a potential class action suit brewing to see if the University targeted people based on age, race or if they used the Family Medical Leave Act.

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