Lansing supervisors protest outside Sparrow Hospital for better pay and better working conditions
Michigan Avenue in front of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing was picketed Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of nurses in hospitals are demanding new contracts and better staffing.
Sparrow workers demonstrate along Michigan Avenue in Lansing on November 3rd.
A sea of red-clad Sparrow employees marched from the flood of drivers honking their support.
The professional works council of Sparrow Hospital has represented around 2,200 nurses, pharmacists and scientists who work without contracts since October 30th.
The biggest sticking point is the low workforce. Employees say they are exhausted from filling the gap with high turnover.
Clinical laboratory scientist Julie Mason is an 18-year-old Sparrow employee. She says management doesn’t see customer loyalty as a proactive problem.
“You can’t wait for a department to have a mass exit,” said Mason. “You have to stop the bleeding and then recruit and keep it.”
Lansing State Representative Sarah Anthony joined the picket line in support.
“It shouldn’t take a global pandemic or expiring contract to realize the grueling and selfless work you do for our communities every day,” said Anthony. “But we’re here anyway.”
State representative Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) speaks to Sparrow employees on Wednesday.
The union says the problems affect productivity and morale.
Jen Ackley has worked in the Sparrow Emergency Room for 14 years.
“It creates an ethical dilemma in your head when you are stretched so thin that you can’t give your best to every patient,” Ackley said. “They get the minimum when you are overwhelmed and it doesn’t feel good at all. That’s not why I became a nurse. “
Sparrow denies retention is a serious problem.
“We don’t have a bonding problem here,” said Amy Brown, Sparrow’s chief nursing officer. “I think what we are seeing is that we have bedside nurses who want to give up some of these roles and move to other jobs because there are a lot of different jobs they can take.”
Sparrow offers its unionized members a 12% raise over a three-year period once a new contract is ratified.
“Our proposal was to reintroduce the longevity bonus, four percent general (wage increase) for the very first year, three (percent) and one (percent) for the second and third years, and high shift differences for nights, weekends and other things,” added Brown .
Both sides have requested a federal mediator to help them conclude the contract negotiations. They plan to return to the table on November 9th.