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Mercy Health

Michigan Hospital Uses COVID-19 to Bust Union

The hospital has brought in Trump union-buster Doug Seaton

Brian Young's picture
May 11, 2020

Across the country, communities are cheering healthcare workers as heroes in the war against COVID-19. Yet hospitals are using the crisis to bust unions and fire activist employees.

UCOMM previously reported about nurses in New Jersey being fired for speaking up about their hospital’s refusal to let them wear proper PPE. Now nurses in Michigan say that they are being fired for speaking up about PPE and workplace protections as well. According to the Michigan Nurses Association Justin Howe, a RN at Hackley Hospital, was fired in retaliation for publicly raising concerns about the safety of frontline health care workers and patients – a violation of the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act and the Michigan Public Health Code. Howe was fired on April 3, days after he had publicly raised safety concerns about PPE for frontline nurses and other issues.

Michigan has been a hotspot for COVID-19 and thousands of healthcare workers have gotten sick with the virus. More than a dozen are suspected to have died from it. Before his termination, Howe was the President of the local. He is also a former Marine and has worked at Hackley for seven years.

Howe and the union have filed a lawsuit against the hospital, and their parent companies Mercy Health Partners and Trinity Health.

In addition to Howe’s firing, Hackley fired a member of the union's safety committee just 72 hours after Michigan Nurses Association filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging Howe’s termination was in retaliation. In both cases, the hospital claimed the nurses were fired for HIPPA violations. The hospital also attempted to keep other employees quiet by saying they were looking into additional HIPPA violations. Both the lawsuit and NLRB charges are ongoing.

The union says that these firings are part of a pattern of union-busting activity that started when the hospital hired noted union-buster Doug Seaton. As UCOMM previously reported, Seaton was once considered by Trump for a spot on the NLRB, but his history of busting unions and working for groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) made him to0 toxic for the board.

Since the firings, nurses have worn “No Retaliation” stickers to protest Howe’s termination. “We have to be able to speak out to protect our patients,” said Parks. “We will do whatever it takes to get justice.”

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