Workers accuse Sparrow of anti-union stance

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Amid contract negotiations, the union representing about 2,200 workers at Lansing, Mich.-based Sparrow Hospital is alleging the hospital has repeatedly violated federal labor law.

The Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital, a local of the Michigan Nurses Association, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 24, according to a union news release. The complaint outlines concerns about what the union deems is an "anti-union attitude" by Sparrow.

"We are completely fed up with the anti-union attitude Sparrow executives have taken," Jessica Lannon, RN, the grievance chair of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital and member of MNA's board of directors, said in a news release. "They keep trying to silence the voices of caregivers. Sparrow's administration has crossed the line too many times and must be held accountable."

Specifically, the union accuses hospital executives of abandoning the safe staffing concerns process in the contract for workers prior to its expiration Oct. 31, and questioning workers about union activities. The union also alleges, among other things, that hospital executives refused to share financial information with the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital and "unlawfully coerced employees' legally protected right to strike including by making bargaining proposals containing a written threat to withdraw proposals on wages, healthcare and other economic terms automatically upon notice of a strike."

John Foren, a spokesperson for the hospital, told Becker's Sparrow is reviewing the union's complaint and will respond appropriately.

"We dispute all allegations in the complaint," he added.

The complaint comes after workers at the hospital, including nurses, pharmacists and laboratory scientists, voted from Nov. 16-21 to authorize a strike if necessary. After the strike authorization vote, Sparrow announced a revised pay and benefits proposal that it said would significantly increase compensation for all union members with no changes to the current healthcare benefit plan designs or caregiver premium coshare. However, the union contends the proposal does not fully address workers' concerns about staffing and other issues.

Both sides are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on Nov. 29.

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