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300 hospital therapists and techs at University Hospital and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital are demanding respect, protection, and safe staffing

Ann Arbor, MI – Close to 300 Respiratory Therapists and Technologists at the University of Michigan’s  University Hospital and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital have requested Union recognition with SEIU Healthcare Michigan; Healthcare Michigan is the largest Union in the state that represents hospital workers. Recognition would elevate the voices of the Hospital workers to have a greater impact on patient care and workplace conditions. About 80% of University of Michigan frontline workers are currently represented by a union. 

“Across the University, a majority of frontline workers enjoy union protections through contracts that protect their rights. SEIU Healthcare MI provides us an opportunity to elevate our voices on the job to better advocate for ourselves, our patients, and our community. A super majority of workers in our unit have signed Union cards and it’s time for the University of Michigan to recognize our union,” said Sabra Wells, a Registered Respiratory Therapist at University Hospital of University of Michigan Health.

In 2020, University of Michigan regents adopted the current framework for labor union recognition. Following a board of regents vote, the new labor unions will be recognized by the university “upon a showing of majority support of the employees in the bargaining unit.” The University has previously recognized a unit of just over 300 Physician Assistants. While staff in the Respiratory department expect their Union will be recognized, they are prepared to file for an election if necessary. 

“Though we expect the University of Michigan to honor our request and recognize our union, we are prepared to file for an election in the event that doesn’t happen. We have waited long enough to have the same rights as our Union colleagues: an elevated voice on the job, the ability to improve our working conditions, and a seat at the table to negotiate a contract that will support therapists and technologists at our hospitals,” stated Sara Thompson, a Senior Registered Respiratory Therapist at University Hospital of University of Michigan Health.

For many respiratory therapists across the health system, the unionization effort is about respecting and acknowledging the hard work and importance of the work they do. 

“It can be easy to take your breathing for granted. Until you have experienced a time when breathing does not come easy for you or a loved one, you may not understand the importance of the work that we do. Respiratory Therapists support the first breaths of babies born too early, the last breaths of those at the end of their life, and every breath that needs assistance in between. When supporting your breathing alone is not enough, Respiratory Therapists are here to give your heart and lungs a rest with the most advanced form of life support, ECMO,” said Shannon Beadle a Registered Respiratory Therapist at CS Mott Children’s Hospital of University of Michigan Health. 

“We are the ones to administer your inhaler when you cannot breathe. We are the ones at the head of the bed assisting the physician when it is necessary to intubate a patient to start a ventilator emergently, and we are the ones monitoring your ventilation all the way through,” said Ashley Greene, a Registered Respiratory Therapist at University Hospital of University of Michigan Health.

The campaign at University of Michigan Hospitals continues a flurry of organizing activity by SEIU Healthcare Michigan across the state. Last December, almost 200 Trinity Grand Haven Hospital workers voted to affiliate with SEIU in a unit that includes Diagnostic Imaging Techs, Lab Assistants and Technologists, Housekeepers, Dietary Workers, and Social Workers, Unit Clerks, Patient Care Associates, Medics, and many other positions. In the same month, LPNs at Mission Point of Ishpeming voted to join their coworkers at SEIU. In September, nursing home workers at SKLD Bloomfield who went on strike voted to unionize.