Nurses reach tentative agreement with MyMichigan Alma
Deal would avoid strike, limit mandatory overtime
Nurses and community members rally for better working conditions at MyMichigan Alma in December. | Photo courtesy of the Michigan Nurses Association
Nurses at MyMichigan Alma have reached a tentative contract agreement with hospital administrators, which would avert a potential strike and limit mandatory overtime, the union representing the health care workers announced Wednesday night.
The nurses at the mid-Michigan hospital will hold a ratification vote on the proposed three-year contract on Feb. 16, the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) said in a press release. If the contract is ratified, the deal would become effective immediately and would avoid a strike nurses had authorized their union leaders to call if they deemed it necessary. The contract for the approximately 150 nurses working at MyMichigan Alma expired in November.
“We are hopeful about what our new contract could accomplish for the future of nursing at our hospital, for our patients, and for our community,” Shenan Shinabarger, a nurse and the president of the local MNA bargaining unit at MyMichigan Alma, said in the MNA press release.
The tentative agreement comes after nurses at the Alma hospital said they’ve long faced deteriorating working conditions, including being understaffed during the COVID-19 pandemic that’s now in its third year.
“I know how hard the few past years have felt to those of us who work as nurses,” Shinabarger said. “Today, my message is simple. Do not give up. When we work together in solidarity as a union, we can achieve something that would never have been possible if we were just individuals acting alone.”
Deborah England, a nurse at MyMichigan Alma, told the Advance prior to the deal being reached this week that she and her co-workers have been experiencing significant burnout.
“I graduated in 2021, and I started in nursing after COVID’s initial big hump,” England said. “I was very eager to start in nursing, but when I got there, all the nurses were tired; they were burnt out.”
As nurses face ongoing burnout and burdensome patient loads in the wake of nurses leaving the hospital, England said she has given serious thought to finding other work.
“Me, personally, I’ve thought about leaving multiple times,” she said. “It’s not a thought I’d ever want to think. To think I’d want to leave within two years of starting my career is mind-blowing.”
England is certainly not alone in this. While she doesn’t want to leave nursing altogether, nurses across the country are considering doing so. A recent national survey found that half of nurses are considering leaving the field in the next year, predominantly because of what those surveyed described as unsafe staffing levels.
Nurses at the Alma hospital hope the new contract will help to address worker shortages there. The proposed agreement protects and improves contractual staffing language, the MNA said. No additional details about the contract will be publicly released until the nurses vote on the tentative agreement, according to union leaders.
As nurses at the Alma hospital vote on their contract, nurses at another mid-Michigan hospital, McLaren Central in Mt. Pleasant, are continuing their negotiations with hospital administrators this week. Their contract also ended in November. Similarly to the Alma hospital nurses, McLaren Central nurses overwhelmingly approved their union leaders calling for a strike if they determine it’s necessary during contract negotiations.
“I want to send solidarity to every single nurse at McLaren Central who might end up having to walk the picket line on strike,” Shinabarger said. “Your hospital’s administration should respect you and negotiate a fair contract. If they do not, know that MyMichigan nurses have your back. We understand that all you’re asking for is to be treated with dignity and to have the resources you need to keep your patients safe.”
During the course of the pandemic, nurses across Michigan and the country have either approved strike authorizations or gone on strike, often over what workers say have been dangerously low staffing levels that have led to an increase in patient injuries and are driving health care workers out of the field.
In January, some 7,000 nurses in New York went on strike before hospital executives agreed to add staffing. About 15,000 nurses in Minnesota went on strike over understaffing last September. Those 15,000 nurses threatened to go on strike again in December after their concerns over working conditions had not been met. That December strike was averted when hospitals agreed to give nurses a say in staffing levels.
Since 2021, nurses at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo and Sparrow Hospital in Lansing authorized strikes before reaching contract agreements with hospital executives.
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