MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Service Employees International Union hospital workers at Trinity Health’s Mercy Health Hospital have voted nearly unanimously in favor of picketing if an agreement isn’t reached regarding pay, safe staffing and better working conditions.

The answer of if workers begin a picket depends on how negotiations progress this week, the union said.

“We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from members who braved the global pandemic and the freezing temperatures to vote in high numbers. This near-unanimous vote is extremely rare, and it demonstrates that Mercy workers are united and ready to take action. What happens next depends on whether Trinity agrees to a fair contract that will address the staffing crisis at Mercy and allow us to take care of our patients and our community,” Sherrie Samp, Medical Technologist II for 30 years at Mercy Health, said in a press release.

Negotiations will continue this week as SEIU works to reach an agreement with all three bargaining units. 

“Some of us haven’t seen a raise since 2017, so we’re really looking for Trinity Health to step up and come to the table with something that’s in good faith and good quality bargaining,” said Jaime Christenson with food and nutrition services at Mercy Health Muskegon. “People are leaving daily for jobs that pay better money elsewhere around town. Even out of town. They’re willing to drive to Grand Rapids just to make more money per hour.”

Mercy Health Muskegon said that it is looking forward to coming to a mutual agreement as soon as possible.

“We are encouraged to see the negotiating teams increase the pace with multiple meetings last week. We have seven additional bargaining dates scheduled and we remain hopeful more progress will be made this week and next,” a statement from Mercy Health Muskegon said. “Completing these contracts and taking care of our colleagues is a priority. Mercy Health Muskegon has been able to reach a fair and mutual agreement with the Union in the past and see no reason we will not reach agreements this time.”

Mercy Health says it has been working on a new contract with the union since February 2021. The health care workers gave a Jan. 31 deadline before they would take further actions.

— News 8’s Emily Linnert contributed to this report.