UPHS-Portage nurses hold rally for safe staffing, fair contract

Nurses demand fair contracts and changes in the workplace
"Support the front line, not the bottom line."
"Support the front line, not the bottom line."(WLUC)
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 5:20 AM EDT
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HOUGHTON COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - Nurses from UP Health System - Portage flooded the Portage Lake Lift Bridge Thursday, rallying for fair contracts and safe staffing.

They’re calling on Lifepoint and Apollo, the groups who own UPHS, to negotiate fair contracts for nurses. Additionally, they want the hospital to recruit and retain new employees.

“We are overworked, there’s many times that the nurses are working 18-hour shifts,” said Kendra Benson, an R.N. at UP Health System - Portage.

The current nurse contract expired on Sept. 30. Nurses are asking for a 7.75% raise, though, UPHS-Portage only wants to provide 3.5%.

Working without a contract, nurses wonder why their demands are seeming to go unheard.

“We are one of the lowest-paying nurses in the area, that’s including Marquette,” said Benson. “We want to be at par with the other local hospitals and have fair wages.”

Benson explains the negotiations have been ongoing since May. She says the hospital has extended the nurses’ contracts three times, but she says she feels like they’ve gotten nowhere.

In response to the planned rally, the UPHS-Portage administration released a statement:

“The employees represented by the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) are critical members of our team, and we support them and respect their right to assemble and speak freely to the community they serve. 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.

“UP Health System – Portage 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. Especially during this pandemic, which has arguably been the most challenging situation the healthcare industry has ever faced, we want to recognize and support our staff and clinical teams who have cared for our patients during this time.”

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