by Anna Gustafson, Michigan Advance
January 26, 2023
An overwhelming majority of nurses at MyMichigan Alma voted Wednesday to authorize a strike should union leaders determine it’s necessary in negotiations over their contract that expired in November, the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) said.
Ninety-seven percent of the nurses who voted backed the strike authorization; 3% opposed it. There are approximately 150 nurses working at the hospital.
“Nurses have sent a clear signal to MyMichigan executives,” Shenan Shinabarger, a nurse at MyMichigan Alma and the president of their local MNA bargaining unit, said in a press release. “We are united and prepared to do what it takes to make sure that MyMichigan bargains in good faith and puts patients first.”
The strike authorization’s passage allows the hospital’s bargaining team to call for the strike; the vote does not guarantee there will be a strike. The bargaining team is made up of nurses who are democratically elected by MNA members at the hospital to represent them in contract negotiations with hospital executives. A 10-day notice would be given before the beginning of the strike.
The vote comes after nurses said they’ve long faced deteriorating working conditions at their hospital, including being understaffed during the COVID-19 pandemic that is now entering its third year. Nurses at the Alma hospital said they hope their next contract will include incentives to fill vacancies at the hospital and retain workers who are already there.
“Nurses are getting pushed out of the workforce by the conditions hospital executives are creating,” said Paula Lemmer, a nurse at MyMichigan Alma.
Erica Vincent, a nurse at the Alma hospital, said she’s “scared about what is going to happen if the downward spiral continues.
“If nurses aren’t able to hold MyMichigan executives accountable, no one will be able to,” Vincent said. “This is about us doing what’s right for our community.”
Marita Hattem-Schiffman, the central regional president of MyMichigan Medical Centers in Alma, Clare and Mt. Pleasant, said in a statement provided to the Advance Wednesday that the hospital was “surprised to hear of the vote to strike following our most recent negotiations this past Friday.”
“We know our nurses, and they are exhausted from these past few years,” Hattem-Schiffman said. “The sacrifices they made through the COVID-19 pandemic are ones they are still recovering from today. They deserve our deepest appreciation and respect. Our very best efforts will never adequately recognize what they went through and what they contributed — the most expert and compassionate care — all the while fearing for our community, dreading what each shift might bring, and grieving the losses.”
The Alma hospital’s vote comes at a time when nurses across the state and country are approving strike authorizations as they face understaffed hospitals and burnout from working in an ongoing pandemic. Nurses at another mid-Michigan hospital, McLaren Central in Mt. Pleasant, are voting Thursday on their own strike authorization.
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.
Negotiations between MyMichigan Alma union leaders and MyMichigan executives will resume on Feb. 1.
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