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2,500 of my hospital co-workers and I won union recognition!


This will retain staff! Patients deserve consistent care.

The only selfie i have access to feat cat 1 cropped

By Em M.

Hi, I'm Em and I've been an inpatient unit clerk at the University of Michigan Medicine, one of the nation's largest academic medical centers, since 2018. In handling patient admission and discharge (all frontline work), I talk to patients and their families along with various clinical staff like nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and patient care techs – basically anyone involved in direct patient care.

Since at least last summer, about 2,500 (!) co-workers and I—including other inpatient unit clerks as well as patient care techs, administrative specialists, patient services assistants/associates/intermediates/seniors, training specialists, medical coders, and call center representatives—have been joining together with the help of SEIU Healthcare Michigan (HCMI) to unionize so we can bring about necessary changes at the hospital.

And we succeeded and won our union on March 18th, 2024!

Necessary Changes

During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Michigan Medicine's retirement matchings, raises, and other monetary benefits stopped for non-union employees. Several other positions, particularly in outpatient and surgery settings, were furloughed, severely impacting the pay of many of my colleagues.

To add pain to injury, when I looked at our annual HR salary disclosures, which the University of Michigan posts, we could see that top leadership, who had originally gotten pay cuts during COVID-19, have now received raises that matched their pre-pay cut salaries, raises for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years.

Frontline workers like me and all those unionizing have never received anything like that. If our efforts—caring for patients, comforting their families, risking our and our families' health—have been appreciated, leadership never took action to show it. But now, we will have a united voice demanding fair pay.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Union Members Summary, in 2023 the median weekly earnings for unionized workers was about $200 more than the median weekly earnings of non-union workers. Yes, people are more likely to stay in positions that meet (or exceed) their economic needs, and yes, coming together in union will help to bring that about!

The bottom line is that we need to put more effort into retaining staff for the longer term. Patients deserve consistent care from experienced professionals.

I can't speak for everyone, but my department has been operating below an 80% staffing capacity for the past 4 years. It's a horrible feeling to speak with patients and hear they didn’t receive the care they should have because we are stretched so thin.

For my department, training is outside of our control. It's difficult to provide excellent work with substandard tools or information. It's further demoralizing to know that the issues of training and staffing cannot be resolved without action from the top. I can only assume that leadership finds the current state of affairs—lower quality patient care and customer service, leading to a potentially higher risk of medical errors —acceptable.

And while we’re all hearing about a “workforce shortage” the truth is, we have a good jobs shortage. But together, soon seated at the decision-making table, my frontline co-workers and I will change that.