POWERS, Mich. (WJMN) – An ongoing discussion between Pinecrest Medical Care facility and the Nurses SEIU Union took on a more public display Monday in the form of an informational picket.

The event was held near the weigh station along US-2 in Powers. Nurses, Union Representatives, and family members of Pinecrest residents showed up to voice their concerns over pay and working conditions at the facility.

Mason Wallace is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Pinecrest and is the Chief Steward of their SEIU Union.

“We are out here gathered today with our SEIU Union with our LPN’s to do an informational picket because we are the lowest paid skilled nursing facility in the Upper Peninsula for LPN’s. We are out here to gather support after we’ve had two failed negotiations with management. We had one regular negotiation session and one mediation session with a state mediator.”

The conversation began on February 21, 2023. These are not contract negotiations. This is something called a wage reopener. Wallace said it allows them to talk about their hourly wage, shift differentials, and insurance contributions.

We spoke over the phone with Steve Dubord, the Chief Financial Officer for Pinecrest. He said, “The facts are, that an LPN that works here full-time hours makes $70K or more a year. That’s their gross take home. Michigan average is about $50K. Between pre-pandemic days and present they make about 47% more and their hours only increased by %7. Much of those hours actually paid time off and not work hours. In my calculation, only 3% are paid for hours worked.”

Dubord said concerns raised about LPN’s claims of being underpaid for overtime are misrepresented.

“They have a provision in their contract where they are paid time and a half for the majority of hours worked here.” Dubord continued, “We have a 15% offer on the table. That offer has been on the table since the outset. it equates to $3.50-$4/hour pay increase based on the fact that the majority of the hours are paid time and a half, give the provision in their contract. They are leaving $3.50-$6/hour on the table every hour that they are working here. Because it’s unlawful in Michigan to backpay under these circumstances, they are missing out on that money.”

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility in Powers

Mason Wallace said the reason for the picket was not entirely about wages. He believes Pinecrest is at the bare minimum of state-set requirements for the ratio of patients to nurses, and is concerned for the strain on nurses and the quality of care for residents.

“This isn’t just about a bunch of nurses that want a higher wage. This is about a tax-funded facility that’s not being operated efficiently because we’re at half our capacity. We only have 62 residents right now and we can have more than twice that. Our building is not being operated effectively in terms of serving its local community, which is its purpose. That community needs them to be there. When you have people sitting at local hospital beds for days and weeks because they can’t find a long-term care facility with placement and we have the space available and the bed availability, but we don’t have the nursing staff to provide the excellent care that everyone deserves and should expect to receive.”

Edit: Pinecrest officials contacted WJMN saying that Pinecrest is not tax funded in any way. They are a fee for service facility, whose primary source of revenue is from patient insurances similar to the hospitals in the area.

Wallace later clarified that he was referring to the facility being County owned and operated compared to being owned by a corporation. 

The next steps come in the form of a state assigned fact-finder. Both sides are confident the investigation will result in a favorable outcome for their party. Whatever the outcome, the nursing contract is coming up for renewal with negotiations set to begin at the end of 2023.