Published in Health Care

Mercy Health Muskegon RNs vote for sole union representation by SEIU

BY Wednesday, July 08, 2020 04:38pm

MUSKEGON — SEIU Healthcare Michigan will represent all registered nurses at Mercy Health in Muskegon.

The union said today that nurses at Mercy Health Muskegon voted to choose SEIU Healthcare Michigan for union representation.

SEIU Healthcare Michigan for years has represented RNs at the Mercy Campus on Sherman Boulevard, and the Michigan Nurses Association represented nurses at the Hackley Campus. As Mercy Health consolidates much of its care at the Mercy Campus and a new patient tower, RNs voted for SEIU for sole representation.

“Now is the time for all Mercy Health nurses to unite, get involved in our union, work together and move forward for our patients,” Wendy Trach, a registered nurse Mercy Health Muskegon’s Preadmission Testing department, said in a statement from the union. “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.”

SEIU Healthcare Michigan said it sought to negotiate a deal with the Michigan Nurses Association to jointly represent RNs at the Mercy Campus. The MNA declined, preferring to have an election for sole representation that was held by mail since June 4. Ballots were counted Tuesday, according to SEIU Healthcare Michigan. RNs were asked to choose one of the two unions or opt for no union.

Of the 709 votes cast, 373 RNs opted for SEIU Healthcare Michigan and 333 voted for the MNA. Three RNs voted “no union.”

SEIU Healthcare Michigan in its statement said that “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.

Mercy Health Muskegon said in a statement to MiBiz that the election results have not yet been certified by the National Labor Relations Board and “until that certification is received, there is no change to the representation.”

“Mercy Health Muskegon looks forward to working with the Union selected to represent the Nurses, once the NLRB provides notice of that representation,” the health system said.

Part of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU Healthcare Michigan represents more than 11,000 nurses and caregivers at hospitals, nursing homes and clinics throughout the state. The union also represents more than 1,000 technical and service workers at Mercy Health Muskegon, including ER techs, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, lab techs, dietary workers, and environmental services workers.

The union’s statement also claimed that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nurses at Mercy Health have been “struggling with severe understaffing and a lack of personal protective equipment” and that staffing levels reached “dangerous levels,” leading to mandated extra shifts.

“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 health care system which puts patient and worker safety first, not executive pay,” Andrea Acevedo, president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, said in the union’s statement.

SEIU Healthcare Michigan said it planned to begin contract bargaining surveys with RNs now at the Hackley and Mercy campuses.

Mercy Health, including Muskegon and Grand Rapids, is part of Livonia-based Trinity Health. Along with sister health system Saint Joseph Mercy Macomb, Mercy Health said June 29 that it was adjusting staffing levels and expenses in response to financial pains from the COVID-19 pandemic that for weeks left hospitals unable to perform elective surgeries and procedures.

The health systems said they would reduce positions in “mostly non-clinical, administrative functions,” and that “some of the affected colleagues will be among those who were furloughed over the past few months. Some staffing decisions will be position eliminations, and others will consist of extended furloughs or reduced schedules.”

“Like most health systems and other industries across the country, we are facing significant pandemic-related challenges. As we ramped up to support inpatients afflicted with COVID-19 and effectively shut down outpatient and elective services during stay-at-home orders, our revenues fell and operational costs increased,” Rob Casalou, president and chief executive officer for Trinity Health Michigan, said in the June 29 statement. “We are seeing gradual rates of patient volume increase but expect our revenue will be lower than previous levels for at least a few years. In order to align our cost structure with volumes, we are making difficult and painful decisions that impact our colleagues.”

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