POWERS, Mich. (WZMQ) – On Monday morning, nurses at a long-term care facility in Menominee County picketed outside their workplace in response to stalled wage negotiations.
Pinecrest Medical Care Facility workers in the Service Employees International Union held signs and waved at honking drivers to spread awareness about the unfair wages they say they are receiving.
“We would like to be comparable with other facilities,” said Pinecrest LPN Kasse Wellman. “We are one of the lowest–or one of the lowest–in the entire U.P. There are county facilities who are dollars above us and other facilities that are close to ten dollars above what we make.”
Wellman says the most an LPN can make working at Pinecrest is $22.60.
“We’re willing to negotiate,” she said. “We’ve tried to present things on the basis of years as a nurse. If you’ve been here for a year, that’s different than if you’ve given twenty years of service.”
Wellman says due to low wages, Pinecrest only meets the state’s minimum staffing requirement. She and others often fill in the gaps by coming in on their days off, stretching themselves thin in the process.
“I can’t not come in and take care of someone because it’s my day off,” said Wellman, who attended the demonstration after getting off of a 12-hour shift. “I mean, these are people who I care about. Yeah, I like my days off too, but that could be your grandma or grandpa that needs to be taken care of.”
LPN Mason Wallace says while Pinecrest currently cares for 62 residents, the facility has the capacity to hold more than double that number.
“We have people that are sitting in local hospital beds for days on weeks because they simply can’t get admitted to a long-term care facility,” he said. “We have the space available and we have the best to offer them. We just don’t have the nurses on staff to provide excellent nursing care that everybody deserves to receive and should expect to receive.”
Relatives of Pinecrest residents also picketed with workers to support the people who care for their loved ones.
“I’m there 25 – 30 hours a week, so I see what they do,” said Jean Billy, whose father resides at the facility. “They are such hard workers, and they deserve at least a wage that’s comparable to everybody else in the area.”
According to Pinecrest Chief Financial Officer Steve Dubord, workers were offered and turned down a 15% increase in pay. He says that would translate to approximately three dollars and fifty cents per regular work hour.
“LPNs that work an average of at least full time make $70,000 a year, which is $20,000 more than the state median,” said Dubord.
Dubord also says Pinecrest nurses make 47% more now than they did prior to the pandemic.
“[There has been] only about a 7% increase in hours worked,” he said. “Actually, it would be 3% increase of hours actually worked, the remaining is probably PTO and such. This was largely due to a provision they have in their contract that allows them to be paid at time and a half under multiple circumstances, so many of their hours are actually at default paid at time and a half. Their assessment that their current wages are below the market excludes that fact.”
However, Wallace says that 47% increase is due to the overtime pay nurses receive for filling in when the facility is short-staffed.
According to Wallace and Wellman, a fact-finding party is coming in to gather information from both sides to work toward a solution.