Sparrow Hospital nurses vote to authorize strike amid contract dispute

Since Oct. 31, more than 2,000 caregivers of PECSH-MNA have been working without a contract.
Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:49 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - In an overwhelming vote, nurses and healthcare professionals at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing have voted to authorize a strike.

With 96% of voters giving the green light, members of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital, of the Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA) gave the negotiating team the power to declare a strike.

“The staff members that have stayed through the pandemic working extra hours in unsafe environments with more patients. I feel like we deserve to be compensated for that with a reasonable wage and healthcare that is affordable,” said Sparrow nurse, Desintee Griffin.

The voting took place Tuesday of last week through Sunday night. The vote does not mean there will be a strike, but that one can be called at any time. A ten-day notice will be given should a strike be called. Since Oct. 31, over 2,000 caregivers of PECSH-MNA have been working without a contract.

“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.”

Sparrow responded with a statement saying they are committed to working out a fair contract with the union and the two sides are currently discussing proposals at the bargaining table. Labor expert Dale Belman said if a strike does take place, Sparrow should have a back up plan to stay staffed.

“There are firms that specialize in breaking nurses strikes. Basically have nurses on call they can bring in. They earn tremendous amounts of money and the firm earns tremendous amounts of money and the hospital pays a kind of stand by fee,” said Belman.

Nurses and healthcare professionals say that the proposals from Sparrow’s executive teams did not include wage increases in tune with the cost of inflation, increased health care and costs, and punished those who have to call in sick, along with failing to guarantee N95 masks, or better, for those working with known or suspected COVID-19 patients. Belman said strikes are not always the end result. It is a tactic in speeding up the process of bargaining with their employer.

“I would say this is simply a signal that its time for both sides to get serious about bargaining. Doesn’t mean a strike wont occur but I would say it probably wont that the two sides will find a compromise,” said Belman.

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