LANSING - A crowd of well over 1,000 protesters, comprised of nurses, pharmacists, other medical professionals and supporters gathered in front of the Sparrow Medical Center on Michigan Avenue to back Sparrow’s caregivers, a group that feels they have been wronged by the hospital and given unfair staffing conditions.
The picketers dressed in red to show solidarity for the caregivers, and gave chants of “What do we want?,” “Safe Staffing” among others. Also featured were a number of speakers, including state Rep. Sarah Anthony and a spokesperson on behalf of U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin.
The picket was officially organized by the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital- Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA), which represents over 2,000 Sparrow workers, to advocate for patients and one another. According to a statement from the MNA, Sparrow has “refused to implement retention incentives or reinstate longevity bonuses,” as well as proposed wages for healthcare workers that are uncompetitive with other hospitals. As a result, the hospital is now dealing with a shortage of nurses and caregivers who are willing to work in what they feel are unfair working conditions.
“For me, the most upsetting thing is just, we need the help, we need to be competitive with these other healthcare systems. If they’re not going to be competitive for the nurses that are available, they’re not going to come here,” ER nurse and PECSH-MNA member L.J. Knight said about the frustration on behalf of the union.
Clinical laboratory scientist and PECSH-MNA member Julie Mason: “Personally, I think we need to come together to get a fair contract, but I just don’t see that happening. We need to have safe staffing…we need to retain our caregivers. We need to do that proactively, not reactively. We need to do the right thing now, get a fair contract for everybody, so we can retain the caregivers that we currently have.”
The labor contract between Sparrow and PECSH expired last Friday, October 30th, and the picket comes in response to an ongoing dispute between the two parties to reach a new agreement. A new round of bargaining is set to begin November 9th.