Will They Walk?

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Ingham Regional Medical Center support staff vote Monday on authorizing a strike against the hospital. Local 459 of the OPEIU represents more than 650 workers, including office staff, housekeeping, pharmacy techs, and nursing assistants.

A "yes" vote would give their bargaining team an extra chip at the table in stalled negotiations with the hospital. This vote is not a decision, only an authorizing for the negotiation team to issue a strike notice if necessary.

Some of the contract "concessions" OPEIU says Ingham wants: Reduced pay for new hires, 10 percent increase in insurance co-pay, reduced time off, and no retiree health care."

"These people are serious, they want to be taken seriously, they want the hospital to bargain seriously with them," says Cindy Jeffries, Local 459 spokeswoman.

IRMC says the union won't accept a federal mediator they've asked to help at the bargaining table. They say their contracts are fair, citing specifically that the retiree program won't be eliminated for current employees (though it will not continue for new hires), and new time off procedures more "in line with the market."