Michigan Nurses Association Takes Legal Action Against Sparrow Hospital, Alleging Repeated Violations of Federal Labor Law

Lansing, MI – The Michigan Nurses Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against Sparrow Hospital with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that Sparrow Hospital has repeatedly violated federal labor law.

“We are completely fed up with the anti-union attitude Sparrow executives have taken,” said Jessica Lannon, RN, the grievance chair of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital – Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA) and member of MNA’s Board of Directors. “They keep trying to silence the voices of caregivers. Sparrow’s administration has crossed the line too many times and must be held accountable.”

Shortly before contract negotiations began, Sparrow’s administration chose to spend hospital resources to contract with Barnes and Thornburg, a law firm that specializes in “union avoidance,” according to their website. Since that time, Sparrow executives have taken an aggressively anti-union approach in contract negotiations.

Among other concerns, caregivers at Sparrow Hospital allege that hospital executives:

  • Unlawfully abandoned the safe staffing concerns process in the caregivers’ union contract prior to its expiration;
  • Unlawfully interrogated staff about union activities and unlawfully attempted to prevent staff from wearing red to show support for their union;
  • Unlawfully announced that they plan to restrict provider networks in 2022 for employee health insurance plans;
  • Unlawfully created a position for nurses at Sparrow outside of the union;
  • Unlawfully refused to share financial information with the union;
  • 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.

Sparrow executives have additionally declared that they will cut healthcare and other benefits for caregivers if they go on strike. Despite Sparrow executives’ actions, over 96% of voters authorized the elected bargaining team to call for a strike in a vote that ended at 11:59PM on Sunday. Almost 90% of union members participated in the vote. The contract for caregivers expired on October 30.

Following the strike authorization vote, Sparrow’s administration put forward a new proposal with improved wages but without guaranteeing caregivers access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and dramatically reducing the number of sick days caregivers can take. The proposal also failed to address immediate staffing concerns felt by caregivers.

“Sparrow’s actions can have real consequences for our patients. Our staffing situation has gone from bad to worse since they abandoned the safe staffing process in our contract,” said Jen Ackley, an emergency department nurse and a member of Sparrow caregivers’ elected bargaining team. “They should be spending less time illegally trying to silence us and more time trying to work with us. Our number one goal as union caregivers is to keep our patients safe.”

The Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital is a local of the Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA.) The union represents approximately 2,200 members across 53 different job classifications at Sparrow Hospital including nurses, pharmacists, and laboratory scientists. The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest and most effective union for nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan, representing approximately 13,000 members across the state. MNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United.

Contact: Amelia Dornbush, 517-896-7478, amelia.dornbush@minurses.org

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