USW members speak up, health care employer held accountable for COVID-19 violations

Early last month, Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) charged Healthsource Saginaw $6,500 in fines for violating COVID-19 workplace safety requirements.

The violations committed by the Saginaw, Mich., rehabilitation and recovery hospital included not keeping everyone on the worksite premises at least 6 feet from one another and not implementing the written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan's social distancing strategies in the behavioral medicine department break rooms. 

Total penalties including other workplace violations were $31,500.

This investigation was only made possible after many workers spoke up and filed complaints. One of those workers was USW Local 12075-17 Unit President Kendra Kalenak-Aldrich, who was involved in the official MIOSHA investigation.

Aldrich, who works in the facility’s behavioral health department, originally filed a complaint in March 2020 for lack of appropriate PPE, then filed two more times that year for the employer not doing fit-testing for N95 masks.

“I knew that was not okay because I worked in a hospital previously and we were fit-tested yearly for an N95,” said Aldrich.

Six complaints were included in the official investigation by MIOSHA, which began in December 2020 and closed in February 2021. On March 1, MIOSHA issued the citation.

Aldirch said Healthsource has taken swift action to remedy the issues, including posting appropriate signage in the building. She also said this investigation shows why collective bargaining agreements and a strong labor movement are so important.

“The only reason I was a part of the process was because I’m a part of the union,” she said.

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