Sparrow workers authorize strike amid Michigan COVID-19 surge

Workers at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Mich., have authorized a strike.

The vote covers about 2,200 members of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital, a local of the Michigan Nurses Association, who have been without a contract since Oct. 31, according to a union news release. The voting took place from Nov. 16 to Nov. 21 and was open to all members, who include nurses, pharmacists and laboratory scientists.

The vote does not mean a strike will occur. However, it authorizes the union to call a strike if it deems one necessary during negotiations. 

The union said its members seek wages that keep up with the rising cost of living as well as fair healthcare benefits.

"We have been clear from the start about what nurses and healthcare professionals need, but Sparrow executives don't seem to take us seriously," Katie Pontifex, RN and president of PECSH-MNA, said in a news release. "After almost two years of pouring our hearts and souls into working during this pandemic, we can't stand by and watch as the staffing crisis gets worse and compromises care for more patients. While no one wants a strike, PECSH-MNA members stand ready to do what it takes. Sparrow executives need to get serious about recruiting and retaining nurses and healthcare professionals so we can provide the best care possible to our patients and community."

In a statement shared with Becker's Nov. 22, Sparrow said it seeks to build on the positive momentum seen in negotiations earlier this month with the assistance of a federal mediator.

"Sparrow is intent on working out a fair and equitable contract with the union, and we are encouraged by the progress we've seen since working with the federal mediator," the statement reads. "The two sides are currently discussing proposals at the bargaining table, and we hope to disclose details later."

Bargaining at Sparrow comes amid a COVID-19 surge in Michigan. New daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have increased 47 percent over the last two weeks, according to data tracked by The New York Times



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