MUSKEGON, Mich. — Unionized healthcare workers in Muskegon plan to act this week after contract negotiations with their parent company failed to produce a new labor agreement by a Monday deadline.
According to SEIU Healthcare Michigan, which represents roughly 1,800 Mercy Health Muskegon workers, members intend to begin voting on the union’s next steps on Tuesday.
What that action looks like remains unclear and depends on what members decide, but may include picketing, organizing activities in the hospital, or authorizing a strike.
RELATED: Mercy Health Muskegon workers set deadline for contract negotiations
At a rally in mid-January, SEIU said workers intended to “do what’s necessary for a fair contract” if the hospital’s Livonia-based owner Trinity Health failed to present agreeable terms by January 31.
“I’m pretty discouraged,” said Jamie Christenson, who works in Mercy’s food services department. “I’m just beside myself. I can’t for the life of me begin to understand why it is so difficult for Trinity to make an investment in their staff.”
Worker demands include better raises and retention bonuses. SEIU says some employees last saw a wage increase in 2017. They also want safe staffing levels.
“We’ve brought fair sacrifice and compromise and compassionate care,” said Christenson. “We’ve proven ourselves. Now we need Trinity to step up and prove themselves.”
RELATED: 'Little progress' on contract negotiations between Trinity Health, Mercy Hospital workers
In a statement to FOX17, Mercy Health pushed back on the years-long negotiation narrative and said contract talks began in February 2021.
The union has said negotiations for nurses started then, not other units, like respiratory therapists, whose contracts expired in 2019.
Mercy Health added that it’s currently providing “critical staffing pay” to many classifications of workers and it recently offered retention and sign-on bonuses, which membership voted down.
According to the union, the incentives only applied to certain departments, not all hospital staff.
“We look forward to increasing the pace of our negotiations, with the ultimate goal of reaching new agreements with the union,” stated Mercy Health Muskegon. “We very much value our colleagues, and want nothing more than to reach a mutual agreement. We have been dedicating our time and energy into creating something that is fair for our colleagues and the organization. We have been able to do so in the past, and see no reason we will not reach agreements with the union.”