The time has arrived for the Bargaining Team of local 4911 to sit down at the table to negotiate our 7th contract. As we all know the attacks on Labor are prevalent. They can be outright fierce. At other times they are very subtle, sliding in under the radar slowly eroding away gains won by our unions, and at the same time crippling our unions (such as RTW) making it difficult if not impossible to make worthy gains. By the time you have an opportunity to read this article we will have had several bargaining sessions with Sparrow Health Systems which commences on September 13th. My hopes are that the partnership between the UAW and Sparrow proves to be one of value and respect, which results in a contract that betters the lives of the 2300 members of Local 4911 and allows Sparrow to thrive as the premier unionized Health Care Facility in Michigan. To quote our Director Gerald Kariem - “WE ARE--- UNION!”
The year 2018 is off to a very interesting start. The political landscape changes almost daily, but rest assured the relentless attacks on the Union Worker will remain the same. My thoughts on fighting back are that we need to build, strengthen and energize all of our local Unions by way of the rank and file member.
With so many millennials entering the work force, I think it is more important than ever for Union leadership to focus on engaging and embracing our young workers. Creating avenues and opportunities for young workers to serve begins with a true desire to identify and invest time and resources in them.
We have all recently seen and heard the power and the voices of our young people, which were heard around the world, as they stood in solidarity against a lack of gun control in this country. Those same youngsters will be what we call our “Young Workers”, entering the work force and being asked to join a Union and take up the fight as a Union member. They will be tasked to affect change while protecting the gains of the great Union leaders of our past.
Young Workers are the future and I myself will be committed, not only to the current vitality of our Unions, but also to those young workers who need to be identified and equipped with the leadership skills now, rather than later to protect the future of the middle class and to carry the torch into their future.
March 2018: A New Year
The New Year is here and is bringing a number of exciting things to local 4911. But first I would be remiss if I didn’t speak about Dr. Martin Luther King and his contribution to the civil rights movement and the moral ground that we as UAW members stand on, fight for and embrace. Dr King had a dream, a dream that all people live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Fifty years later that dream that we hold near and dear is being threatened daily. We must not listen to the rhetoric of our current President as he attempts to exploit the subconscious biases of many Americans.
On a brighter note, Local 4911 will be entering contract negotiations this year. Many of my members are uneasy because of the many cuts to health care reimbursements forcing hospitals to take cost cutting actions . We have withstood a number of departmental restructures with Sparrow attempting to eliminate various jobs each time. As we ramp up for negotiations I’ll be calling on all our members to stand together in solidarity and let it be known that we deserve, and will bargain hard for, a contract that improves our lives and furthers the labor movement .
December 2017: Bargaining for a better tomorrow
In a previous article I mentioned that Sparrow Hospital is a union operated facility. Not only does the UAW represent over 2,300 members, we also work side by side with MNA/PECSH, the nurses union at sparrow. They, too, represent over 2,300 members and of this writing, they are entering their third week of working without a contract.
With the uncertainty of health care in the United States, most hospitals are bracing for less reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, forcing hospitals across the country to tighten their belts in preparation for potential loss of revenue.
While the nurses union works without a contract, they are still at the table working with Sparrow to negotiate an agreement that will take care of their nurses and their families, as well as the patients they care for—all while trying to avoid a work stoppage which looms over their negotiations.
As President of Local 4911, I know we will face a lot of the same challenges a year from now when we enter into contract negotiations with Sparrow. Our bargaining team will work to negotiate our seventh contract that will take care of our members, our families, and all who come to Sparrow for their healthcare needs.
Saving lives and providing services that promote a healthy community, while at the same time building a strong middle class in Lansing and surrounding areas, is paramount for Local 4911 and other labor unions in the Capitol City.
September 2017: A well earned retirement
I recently attended a retirement party for one of our caregivers who worked in the Sparrow Lab and has retired after 40 years of service at Sparrow Hospital. I met Honey Grewal back in 1989 when I was 18 years old. Honey worked in the lab I was hired into. We quickly became good friends and have remained friends over the 29 years I have been at Sparrow.
I am compelled to write this article about Honey because she was a remarkable woman a good friend with a true love of her job. She was very unique in that, in her 40 years of employment she has never called in to work a single time. On top of that, she has never been late to work a single time. That is simply remarkable. Honey was truly dedicated, not to mention blessed, in that she was able to accomplish this amazing feat. She will be missed.
On another note, Local 4911 is a year out from negotiations. Our bargaining team recently met with John Beck, a professor of Labor Relations at Michigan State University for training in collaborative style bargaining. We hope to have more training and team building opportunities over the next year leading into negotiations.
May 2017: A brighter tomorrow
Working and serving a membership in a health care facility is a unique experience with unique challenges. Sparrow Health Systems is growing by the day; soon we will be unveiling our new state of the art Herbert-Herman Cancer Center that will provide the best cancer treatment to those in our community, and those abroad.
But if the American Health Care Act goes into effect, we all know that too many Americans are at risk of losing health care coverage—not only individually but for entire families, up to a staggering number estimated to be 24 million over the next decade. Due to the number of low-income people who may become uninsured with cuts to the Medicaid programs, hospitals such as Sparrow may have to cover the cost of those in need of care who seek treatment through emergency room visits instead of having the ability to seek care with a physician.
Cuts could force many health care facilities to cut services and/or reduce staff to help compensate for the loss in Medicaid coverage due to the AHCA. The writing is on the wall, as I am seeing Sparrow attempt to restructure staff and departments that are staffed with UAW members to operate more efficiently.
At this time, no jobs have been lost, but many of our UAW Caregivers are on edge with the uncertainty that lies ahead.
On to a brighter note, I recently asked the members of Local 4911 to take a stand in solidarity for our respected Patient Sitters, as they were facing some possible restructure. To have so many of our UAW Caregivers voice their concerns and give vows of support gave me everything I needed to go back to the company and report the dissatisfaction from our members about how this vital group of Caregivers were being treated. Solidarity prevailed.
The very next morning I joined a conference call with several of Sparrow’s VPs, who informed me that there would be no restructure of the Patient Sitters and that it was all just a misunderstanding. This shows that regardless of the odds that members face, solidarity can, and will, always affect change.