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Sault nurses advocate for patients, community

Fair contract needed to recruit, retain nurses at MyMichigan hospital
MyMichigan Medical Center Sault nurses are pursuing a fair contract and resolution of unfair labor practice charges against the hospital. They conducted a 5-day strike, with an outpouring of support from the community.

The following article was provided by the Michigan Nurses Assocation.

Nurses at MyMichigan Sault Medical Center work hard to take care of the community every day. They take pride in the care they provide and want it to be the best possible.

That’s why they are advocating not just for great local health care today, but for tomorrow as well.

“To provide the best care possible, we need to have enough nurses working so we can spend quality time with each patient,” said Elizabeth Pancheri, RN. “Right now, we have too many nurses leaving because they can make more money at other hospitals. We are already often short-staffed at MyMichigan Sault, and that’s not fair to patients or nurses.”

Nurses say that if MyMichigan executives don’t fix the recruitment and retention crisis, the hospital’s future well-being is at risk. How do you run a hospital with no nurses?

A big part of the solution is a fair contract for the nurses that is competitive with other MyMichigan and U.P hospitals. Right now, MyMichigan Sault pays nurses $10 an hour less in many cases.

Plus, when the hospital was known as War Memorial, nurses could count on receiving healthcare coverage at no cost – which makes sense when you work for a healthcare corporation.

Now that they own the hospital, MyMichigan executives want to change the rules and charge nurses hundreds of dollars a month for health care coverage. In many cases, that will eat up any possible wage increase.

The nurses acknowledge that MyMichigan is spending money on building improvements and technology, as its purchase agreement requires. They also note, though, that the corporation is acquiring three hospitals and spending $40 million to fix up another.

“None of us can understand why MyMichigan executives in Midland say ‘yes’ to better buildings but ‘no’ to better care, which ultimately is what recruiting and retaining nurses is about,” said Jillian LeBlanc, RN. “They have shown they have plenty of money, so it’s a matter of priorities. We believe the community wants nurses to be a priority when it comes to their health care.”

The nurses say they appreciate all the community support during their recent 5-day unfair labor practice strike, which put the Soo in the statewide spotlight. The nurses, who belong to the Michigan Nurses Association, have filed multiple charges against MyMichigan, alleging that it broke federal labor law.

They assert that MyMichigan has gone after their union president for protected activity, encouraged nurses to leave the union, illegally surveilled them at their informational picket, and failed to engage in good-faith bargaining. The federal government is investigating.

“I wish MyMichigan would show it values the nurses who are committed to our hospital and want to stay,” said Twyla Niznik, RN. “I love nursing and I love taking care of my patients. I grew up here and I want to keep raising my kids here. I can’t afford a pay cut, though – which is what will happen under the current offer. We just need MyMichigan to do what’s right and fair.”