Dozens of nurses at UPHS - Bell win union election

UP Health System Bell (Ishpeming) logo.
UP Health System Bell (Ishpeming) logo.(UPHS)
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 8:50 AM EDT
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ISHPEMING, Mich. (WLUC) - With a unanimous vote of 51-0, nurses at UP Health System - Bell have voted to form a union with the Michigan Nurses Association, according to a press release Wednesday morning from the MNA.

The MNA says the National Labor Relations Board counted the ballots from the mail-in election at their offices in Milwaukee Wednesday. The results mean that the over 60 nurses at UPHS-Bell will now have a union.

“Now that we have formed a union, we will get to have a democratic say in our working conditions. The past few years have been difficult, but winning our union gives me hope,” said Callie Ruohomaki, RN, in a statement. “We are ready to advocate to make improvements so that we can better recruit and retain nurses at our hospital.”

This is the fourth facility of health care workers in the Upper Peninsula that has voted to unionize with the Michigan Nurses Association since the start of the pandemic. Techs and ancillary staff at UPHS-Marquette, nurses at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital, and health care professionals at the Chippewa County Health Department have all previously voted to unionize with MNA. The MNA says unionized health care workers at each of these facilities have been able to win collectively bargained first contracts which improve wages, working conditions, and patient safety.

Nurses at UPHS-Bell first began to talk to each other about forming a union a few months ago. While a supermajority of RNs publicly committed to wanting to form a union before the election, Wednesday’s vote makes it official.

“I am just so proud of what we have accomplished together by forming a union,” said Samantha MacIntosh, RN, in a statement. “We have seen the huge difference that being united as a union has made at other health care facilities across the UP. We’re excited to be able to make that kind of a difference here in Ishpeming as well.”

Unionized nurses at UPHS-Bell join the approximately 600 other nurses and healthcare professionals who are also members of the Michigan Nurses Association at UPHS-Marquette and UPHS-Portage. Now that they have won a union, nurses at UPHS-Bell will soon be able to begin contract negotiations.

“We are proud to welcome the registered nurses at UPHS Bell to our union family,” said Stephanie DePetro, RN, Vice President of the Michigan Nurses Association, and president of the nurses’ local at UPHS-Marquette, in a statement. “Duke LifePoint executives have quickly learned how resolved nurses and healthcare professionals can be when we’re advocating for our patients’ safety. We are ready to support nurses at UPHS-Bell in their fight for a fair contract.”

The MNA now represents nurses at all three UPHS hospitals.

UPHS administration says it will negotiate in good faith with UPHS - Bell nurses.

“This week the UP Health System – Bell Registered Nurses had an opportunity to vote on the question of union representation, and they have assigned their collective bargaining rights to the Michigan Nurses Association,” hospital administration said in a statement. “We respect that decision and will negotiate in good faith for a mutually acceptable collective bargaining agreement that meets the needs of our staff, our community and our hospital. In the meantime, we remain focused on the future of UP Health System – Bell and our mission of Making Communities Healthier.”