96 percent OK move to get fair contract, provide best care to community
Nurses and healthcare professionals at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if needed in their campaign to get a fair contract and provide the best care possible to the community.
With a 96 percent “yes” vote, members of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital, a local of the Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA), have given the negotiating team the ability to call a strike if necessary. The negotiating team consists of members elected by their fellow nurses and healthcare professionals. Almost 90 percent of members participated in voting.
The strike vote occurred despite an active campaign by Sparrow administrators to scare union members away from authorizing a strike. Hospital executives repeatedly threatened to cut workers’ benefits – even during a pandemic – during a strike and to replace them with strikebreakers past the end of a strike in what is known as a “lock-out.”
Voting took place Tuesday through Sunday night; all members were eligible to participate. The vote does not mean there will necessarily be a strike, although one can be called at any time. Ten days’ notice will be provided if a strike is called.
“We have been clear from the start about what nurses and healthcare professionals need, but Sparrow executives don’t seem to take us seriously,” said Katie Pontifex, RN and president of PECSH-MNA. “After almost two years of pouring our hearts and souls into working during this pandemic, we can’t stand by and watch as the staffing crisis gets worse and compromises care for more patients. While no one wants a strike, PECSH-MNA members stand ready to do what it takes. Sparrow executives need to get serious about recruiting and retaining nurses and healthcare professionals so we can provide the best care possible to our patients and community.”
The 2,200 caregivers of PECSH-MNA have been working without a contract since Oct. 31. The Sparrow executive team’s proposals have included wage increases that do not keep up with the cost of inflation, increased health care costs, and punishment for nurses or healthcare professionals who have to call in sick. Their proposals also fail provide a guarantee of an N95 mask or better for those working with known or suspected COVID-19 patients and would reduce caregivers’ voice in their workplace. At no point in the negotiations have Sparrow executives cited the inability to pay as a reason for their unreasonable proposals.
“Our members are committed to fighting for what’s right for patients and our community,” said Kevin Glaza, a pharmacist and vice president of PECSH-MNA. “We all understand that authorizing a strike is a serious matter, and it’s the last thing we want. We cannot allow Sparrow executives to bully us into a contract that won’t improve staffing, won’t keep up with the cost of living, makes it hard for us to afford health care and punishes us when we are sick. The status quo continuing to deteriorate for the next three years is the worst-case scenario for our community. We are willing to sacrifice our paychecks and walk the picket line in order to protect our patients.”
PECSH-MNA leaders also noted they are thankful for the overwhelming support of the community. Earlier this month, more than 1,000 caregivers and community members held an informational picket on Michigan Avenue outside of Sparrow Hospital to call for a fair contract and safe patient care.
PECSH-MNA and Sparrow executives are back at the bargaining table today.
The Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital is a local of the Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA.) The union represents approximately 2,200 members across 53 different job classifications at Sparrow Hospital including nurses, pharmacists, and laboratory scientists. The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest and most effective union for nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan, representing approximately 13,000 members across the state. MNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United.
Contact: Dawn Kettinger, 517-721-9688