GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — The Coast Guard Festival brings in thousands of people to Grand Haven every year and strains emergency rooms in the area with unexpected patients, but this year, workers at Trinity Health Grand Haven have decided to put their foot down.
Trinity Health Grand Haven workers were on strike for 24 hours starting at 6 a.m, Aug. 4. The workers stood on the side of the road with signs, cheering while cars honked for them.
“It’s not for the reasons of not wanting to provide care during this time,” said Meredith Hague, a nuclear medicine technologist at Trinity Health Grand Haven. “We gave the hospital plenty of time to prepare for us not being here and they, for a lot of departments, just chose to shut things down completely and divert things up to Musekgon.”
Hague said during this festival there is more traffic along the roads that can see the workers on strike. As people drove by, they gave honks of support.
Hague said she is striking because the wages at Trinity Health Grand Haven are lower than those at the Muskegon location even though they are both owned by Trinity Health.
Trinity Health Grand Haven spokesperson Amy Rotter said in a statement that Trinity halted negotiations after a supposed 30% of members of the SEIU Union signed a petition to no longer be a part of the union but SEIU members don’t believe this was done fairly.
“[The petition] was done on false pretenses when it first went around,” said Christi Rice, an X-ray technician and PACS specialist at Trinity Health Grand Haven. “They were telling people it had something to do with not paying as high of union wages, so they weren’t even telling people that were signing it what it was for. They ended up having managers going around and asking for signatures and bullying people.
Rice said workers were told they would be in trouble if they did not sign the petition. Rice also said workers were being warned that if they attended the strike, they would be getting points on their record.
“It’s a legal strike due to unfair labor practices and we gave them 14 days’ notice so they had plenty of time to get people,” said Rice. “Nobody here wanted to strike but that’s the only thing we can do to try and get Trinity to understand this is an important hospital for this community.”
Rice said that the unfair wages not only affects those working at the hospital now, but their ability to hire new employees. Rice said they have offered jobs to workers but have been passed up due to them finding hire paying jobs in the same field.
Sonya Ascencio, an EVS housekeeper at Trinity Health Grand Haven, attended the strike in support of all people affected by the unfair treatment.
“I am here to actually not just support our workers, but our patients, our community,” said Ascencio. “Sometimes I go into the rooms and the lights are going off and phones are ringing because we don’t have enough people.”
Ascencio said that short staffing causes stress among the workers and there aren’t enough people to answer phones or respond to patient rooms as quickly as they should be.
Rice said Trinity Health had offered a proposal but it actually cut some benefits rather than improving them.
“People from Musekgon will come down here and say there is a six to eight hour wait up there, so they come here,” Rice said. “It’s the same patients. I don’t know why they think that we don’t deserve to make the same amount of money just because we’re a smaller hospital.”
“I’ve been here for 25 years because I love my job, I love the community and all we are asking is just for fair pay,” said Rice.