Muskegon – Over 800 registered nurses at Mercy Health in Muskegon will now be represented by SEIU Healthcare Michigan after union election ballots were counted on Tuesday, July 7. The ballot count followed a month-long mail election which began on June 4 and included nurses at both the Hackley and Mercy Campuses. Nurses voted on whether to all join SEIU, the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA), or have no union.
Nurses say it is now time to put aside their differences and all move forward together so they can continue their fight for safe staffing and personal protective equipment, and start negotiating a new union contract which will safeguard patients during the pandemic.
“Now is the time for all Mercy Health nurses to unite, get involved in our union, work together and move forward for our patients,” said Wendy Trach, a registered nurse in the Preadmission Testing department who has worked at Mercy Health for 42 years.
“Nurses have decided democratically that SEIU is who we want to represent us. With that done, we need to look past our differences and focus on our shared goals, which are advocating for quality care for our patients and good jobs for our colleagues, and getting our community through this global pandemic. We call on executives to provide the safe staffing and personal protective equipment we need, and immediately sit down to negotiate a fair union contract.”
The election was precipitated by the announced consolidation of Mercy Health Muskegon’s Hackley and Mercy Campuses into a new medical tower which was recently constructed at the Mercy Campus. For many years, SEIU represented nurses at the Mercy Campus, and the Michigan Nurses Association represented nurses at the Hackley Campus. SEIU members tried to negotiate an agreement with MNA to jointly represent nurses at the new tower, but MNA leaders insisted on holding an election in which nurses would choose a sole union to represent them. Management then began to run an anti-union campaign in which it wasted precious resources trying to convince nurses to have no union whatsoever. The final ballot count was 373 votes for SEIU, 333 votes for MNA and 3 votes for “no union.”
SEIU also represents over 1,000 technical and service workers at Mercy Health, including ER techs, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, lab techs, dietary workers and environmental services workers. With all 1,800 nurses and caregivers now united together, they will have a much greater voice to advocate for their patients with the administration. Since the pandemic began nurses and caregivers have been struggling with severe understaffing and a lack of personal protective equipment. SEIU members even resorted to pleading with the community for donations of masks, goggles, gowns and face shields, which they distributed amongst their colleagues without waiting for hospital administrators to respond.
In recent weeks, understaffing has reached dangerous levels. Instead of trying to solve the problem, administrators have mandated extra shifts for nurses and announced impending layoffs. Multiple studies have proven that unsafe staffing levels in hospitals can lead to lower quality patient care, including falls, infections, medication errors, and increased deaths. Safe staffing has become even more crucial during the pandemic as nurses are caring for extremely sick patients.
“We welcome all nurses from both the Hackley and Mercy campuses into SEIU with wide-open arms,” said Andrea Acevedo, president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan. “We want to make sure the voices of all Hackley nurses are heard, and that they become active members of our union. Together, we will help lead the national movement of nurses and healthcare workers who are demanding a healthcare system which puts patient and worker safety first, not executive pay.”
As a next step, nurses at both the Hackley and Mercy campuses will be filling out contract bargaining surveys so they can all have a say in determining their negotiation priorities. There will also be a series of Zoom meetings open to all Hackley and Mercy nurses to make sure every voice is heard, make connections between nurses, grow their unity and plan strategy. Nurses from both the Hackley and Mercy campuses will be on the contract bargaining committee.
Mercy Health, and parent company Trinity Health, certainly have the resources to provide safe staffing, personal protective equipment, good jobs and quality patient care for the community. Trinity Health, which is one of the largest “non-profit” healthcare corporations in the nation, recently received $2.2 billion dollars from taxpayers as part of the federal bailout.