Rally supports UPHS staff

Supporters of local health care workers line West Washington Street in Marquette by Harlow Park on Thursday to show solidarity for staff at UPHS - Marquette. The rally also served as a kickoff for contract negotiations. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Safe staffing and the message “Invest or Leave!” to LifePoint was the theme for a Thursday community rally at Harlow Park by nurses and ancillary staff at UPHS – Marquette.

The Michigan Nurses Association in a news release stressed that the rally was not a work stoppage, picketing event or strike. All participants attended outside their work hours, and members were to participate without disrupting traffic flow or patient care.

The rally also served as a kickoff for contract negotiations for UPHS – Marquette nurses.

Katlyn Lafrinere, senior cardiovascular technologist at UPHS – Marquette, attended Thursday’s event.

“We are today holding a rally as MNA members with the RN Staff Council, along with the newly formed Marquette Ancillary Staff and Technologists Technical Union, both represented by MNA,” Lafrinere said, “and we are here to rally to gain community support as we both prepare to enter into contract negotiations with our employer.”

Lafrinere, who is president of the ancillary union, said the nurses’ contract ends in May while ancillary and technical staff will bargain on their first contract.

“We’ll both be bargaining at the same time,” she said.

Techs at UPHS – Marquette voted on June 28 to form a union with the MNA, winning the union with 92% voting yes in a 159-13 count.

UPHS – Marquette issued a statement on contract negotiations.

“The employees represented by the Michigan Nurses Association are critical members of our team, and we support them and respect their right to assemble and speak freely to the community they serve,” it said. “We understand that the hospital’s contract negotiations with the MNA will likely be addressed.

“While we cannot comment on specific elements of those negotiations out of respect for the bargaining process, we are confident that the result will be a mutually agreeable contract for all. In the meantime, please rest assured that we will not be distracted from providing excellent care to our patients and community.”

Lafrinere said staffing, wages and patient care are concerns.

“We want to be able to advocate for our patients,” she said. “Right now, we’re hemorrhaging staff. Units are super low-staffed, having to work extra. It’s not sustainable. People are leaving to travel, just sick of the conditions, sick of their concerns not being heard, and they’re going elsewhere.”

The hospital also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic in its statement.

“UP Health System – Marquette takes very seriously our commitment to delivering high-quality, safe and compassionate care close to home, and we strive daily to create excellent workplaces for our employees,” it said. “Especially during this pandemic, which has arguably been the most challenging situation the health care industry has ever faced, we want to recognize and support our staff and clinical teams who have cared for our patients during this time.”

A similar rally took place earlier this month in Houghton.

The MNA organized a rally that took place on Oct. 14 at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton County to call on LifePoint and Apollo, the for-profit private equity firm that owns UPHS, to negotiate a fair contract.

“After years of frustrations with the current owners of UPHS, nurses say that the out-of-state for-profit private equity firm must either invest in the community or leave,” the MNA said in a news release.

LifePoint’s headquarters are in Brentwood, Tennessee, 870 miles from the UPHS campus in Marquette.


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