McLaren Lapeer nurses hold a rally to call for better working conditions on May 19, 2023. | Photo courtesy of the Michigan Nurses Association
Unionized nurses at McLaren Lapeer Region Hospital unanimously voted this week to authorize a strike, according to the Michigan Nurse’s Association (MNA).
The vote does not mean a strike will definitely occur, but union leadership now has the go-ahead to call for one should they deem it’s necessary during ongoing contract negotiations.
The nearly 250 unionized nurses working at the hospital have been operating under an expired contract since May 9 as McLaren has not accepted “any of the nurses’ proposals” for safe staffing ratios, according to a news release from MNA Thursday. The hospital is located in Lapeer, a town about 20 miles west of Flint.
“Nurses are rising up because we are tired of watching our patients’ lives be jeopardized due to corporate greed,” Carie Babcock, a registered nurse and president of the hospital’s MNA chapter, said in the news release. “We are the frontlines. We will do whatever it takes to win a contract that will protect our patients.”
MNA has often resorted to mobilizing strikes in the last few years and McLaren is prepared to ensure that services will still be provided if a strike occurs, McLaren Lapeer Region President and CEO Tim Vargas said in a written statement Thursday.
“We will not let such antics detract us from our goal, especially considering that approximately one-quarter of our registered nurses at McLaren Lapeer Region were banned from voting by the union as they are non-union dues paying nurses,” Vargas said in the statement Thursday. “Our focus is to provide high-quality care during a difficult time in health care as we bargain for a fair and quality contract for our nurses and community hospital.”
The MNA said negotiations with McLaren began nearly three months ago. If the nurses’ union decides a strike is necessary, McLaren would receive a 10-day notice.
Negotiations are scheduled to resume next Monday, according to MNA.
“The sad truth is that McLaren’s quarterly financial reports look better when fewer nurses are working,” said Alisha Ferkowicz, a registered nurse. “We cannot continue to allow for McLaren’s administration to put profits before patients. We need a meaningful way to hold them accountable.”
Michigan is experiencing a nurse shortage, and a recent study from the University of Michigan notes four out of 10 nurses in the state say they plan on leaving their jobs in the coming year. More than half of those nurses who said they will be leaving are under the age of 26, which is concerning for the future of nursing, according to the study’s lead author.
“We are fighting for the future of our community hospital,” said Chuck Johnson, a registered nurse. “We are fighting for the right to be able to work under conditions that allow us to provide the highest quality of care to our neighbors, families, and loved ones. We know that it’s possible to make McLaren Lapeer better, and we won’t rest until we’ve done so.”
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