GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Health care union workers at Trinity Health’s Grand Haven hospital walked off the job Friday.
Service Employees International Union Healthcare Michigan authorized the one-day strike, saying workers are striking to voice concerns around Trinity’s bad faith bargaining, low wages and lack of community investment.
A federal mediator scheduled negotiations but hospital workers walked away from the bargaining table Thursday.
“We’re not being treated fairly. We’ve been without a contract,” medical technologist Beth Ruiter, a member of the union’s bargaining committee, said. “They told us they wanted a contract by the end of April. We started bargaining in February. They have not come through.”
Trinity Health took over what was North Ottawa Community Hospital last fall. The changeover has not gone smoothly, Ruiter said, and employees voted to join SEIU in December.
“They (Trinity) tried to dump a bunch of policies on us that really made you feel unwelcome,” Ruiter, who has worked at the hospital for 38 years, said.
Lab techs, housekeepers, dietary workers and others walking the picket line said they want pay parity with workers at Trinity Health Muskegon.
“To say that were not in the same labor market and that we don’t deserve parity and pay and wages and all the benefits and premium pays has been kinds of insulting,” radiographer Ricky Kauffman said.
SEIU and Trinity Health have both filed unfair labor practice claims against the other. The union accuses Trinity Health of a repeated and illegal attempt to undermine the union, including pressuring workers to sign anti-union petitions at captive-audience meetings while ignoring their rights.
The hospital fired back, saying in a Friday statement that union members have tried to intimidate non-union workers and that some workers want to leave the union:
“SEIU makes many false claims but the opposite is true. Of the nearly 200 members of the bargaining unit, we do not believe more than 25 employees are actively picketing at this time. This week there have been numerous complaints of intimidation, bullying and harassment by union supporters against our hospital colleagues.
“The SEIU’s treatment of our colleagues has reached a breaking point. At least 30 percent of current union colleagues filed a petition on Monday with the National Labor Relations Board requesting to no longer be part of the SEIU. In light of this news, we decided to pause further negotiations. We will respect whatever the colleagues decide in a fair election, overseen by the NLRB, and resume negotiations if necessary.”Trinity Health
The union said it chose Friday for the strike because of the Coast Guard Festival. According to the union, the influx of visitors the festival brings to the city often already puts a strain on services.
The hospital system said it planned for the strike, so all services were up and running Friday. The only exception was reduced lab services hours.
“Trinity Health Grand Haven remains committed to serving the community and ensuring a safe and healing environment for colleagues, patients and visitors,” its statement concluded.
Some on the picket line are worried about their future and the future of the hospital.
“Are we going to be open as a hospital? Are they going to change things? That’s a tough work environment that is being created,” Kauffman said.