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Published on March 29, 2024
Over 2,300 Health Care Workers at University of Michigan Medicine Unite Under SEIU's BannerSource: Google Street View

More than 2,300 health care workers at the University of Michigan Medicine have bolstered the ranks of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a move that underscores the growing unionization momentum within the health sector. The group, comprising roles such as patient care techs, phlebotomists, and unit clerks, aligns with 283 respiratory therapists and techs who made the same leap in July of the previous year, as reported by CBS Detroit.

Michigan Medicine workers, now 80% unionized, witnessed a card check on March 18 that facilitated this massive addition to SEIU Healthcare Michigan; employers recognized the union after a majority of employees signed on. Willie Griggs, a patient service associate at Mott Women and Children's Hospital underscored the move, stating, “As a patient service associate, we play a vital part in our patient's recovery, we make sure patients have a positive first interaction with the University of Michigan health system,” Griggs told Michigan Advance. His remarks echo a narrative of union advocacy and the quest for a louder voice in the workplace, shared by many of his colleagues.

Em Mayhew, an inpatient unit clerk at University Hospital, pointed out the glaring disparities during COVID-19, noting non-unionized employees missed out on raises and bore the brunt of benefit cuts while their unionized peers did not. "A union would be our voice to fight for better pay, and benefits, and preserve the quality care our patients deserve," Mayhew expressed in a statement shared by both CBS Detroit and Michigan Advance.

The push for unionization is far from over as SEIU Healthcare Michigan, representing over 17,000 workers, sets its sights on organizing an additional 2,000 Michigan Medicine workers including call center representatives and medical billing staff; this further consolidation unearths the profound impact collective bargaining powers can have on workplace conditions, especially as medical professionals navigate the aftermath of a global pandemic and its transformative effects on health care delivery and worker rights. Notably, more than 900 diagnostic technologists formed a new union as part of United Michigan Medicine Allied Professionals AFT Local 6739, a chapter of the AFL-CIO last February, adding to the narrative of solidarity and representation, as Crain's Detroit underscored.

Michigan Medicine, part of the top-tier UM Health system, stands as a significant entity with entities such as the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and UM Medical School — the latter a powerhouse in biomedical research commanding over $500 million in funding. The ongoing shift to unionization within such a notable institution may very well signal a broader tide change in labor relations across the health care industry.