Thursday, December 2, 2021

Sparrow union votes to authorize strike

November 23, 2021
<p>Sparrow nurses, along with supporters of them, picket along Michigan Avenue in Lansing on Nov. 3, 2021. </p>

Sparrow nurses, along with supporters of them, picket along Michigan Avenue in Lansing on Nov. 3, 2021.

Photo by Jillian Felton | The State News

The Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital, the 2,200 member union of caregivers at Sparrow Hospital, announced Monday morning in a press release the strike authorization vote passed last week, with over 96% voting to authorize.

This does not mean a strike will now take place, however. The vote was a preemptive authorization that will now allow union leadership to invoke a strike if they find it necessary.

The earliest a strike could take place is 10 days after the leadership announces one. Section 8(g) of the National Labor Relations Act requires a healthcare union to provide a 10-day notice before engaging in striking.

The strike authorization came after Sparrow Hospital announced it had reached 100% capacity and as Michigan became the worst state for transmission of COVID-19. Over the past two weeks, Michigan has seen a 78% increase in cases.

Some of the problems the union had with the proposed contract were annual pay increases, increasing healthcare costs and understaffing of the hospital.

Last week, the negotiating teams met with a federal mediator. In a Nov. 22 news release, Sparrow Hospital spokesperson John Foren announced a new pay and healthcare benefits proposal for PECSH-MNA workers. The new three-year proposal includes a 19% raise for nurses at step nine, nurses in their ninth year at Sparrow, a 15.6% raise for clinical lab scientists and a 15.6% raise for pharmacists. Those increases would be reached by the end of three years.

The other stipulations Foren points to are: "no changes to current healthcare benefit plan designs or caregiver premium co-share."

PECSH-MNA President and Sparrow nurse Katie Pontifex said in a statement from the union that this proposal will risk the safety of the healthcare professionals and their patients and is unacceptable, as it does not guarantee access to personal protective equipment.

"Nothing in Sparrow executives' proposal addresses the immediate staffing crisis as caregivers are forced to take care of more patients than is safe," Pontifex said. "PECSH-MNA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, and we will not back down from fighting for what we need to take care of our patients and our community."

The next day for negotiations is Monday, Nov. 29.

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