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University of Michigan nurses vote to authorize work stoppage, citing unfair labor practices

Michigan Medicine says it will take legal action to block strike


ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan nurses voted to authorize a work stoppage, citing ongoing and continuous violations of their workplace rights, the University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council announced Monday.

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UMPNC members say that university officials are violating Michigan labor laws. The council filed charges on September 7 stating that the university failed to bargain in good faith over terms and conditions of employment, made changes in work shifts without notifying or negotiating with the union, and discriminated against union members.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Medicine said the health care provider hopes to avoid a work stoppage and will take legal action to avoid a strike. 

"We are disappointed that our UMPNC nurses have voted to approve a strike," said Mary Masson, director of public relations for Michigan Medicine on Monday. "We have been bargaining in good faith since January and have offered a competitive package."

With more than 4,000 votes cast, 94 percent of University of Michigan nurses voted to authorize the work stoppage, according to the Michigan Nurses Association.

Members of the UMPNC voted to authorize the possible work stoppage during meetings that took place September 10-16.

“Our goal is not a work stoppage,” said Katie Oppenheim, RN, chair of UMPNC. “Our goal is a fair agreement which respects nurses and guarantees safe staffing.  The University can remedy this situation immediately, by stopping their unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith."

A date has not been set for the possible work stoppage, the council said, but nurse leaders will give the university at least ten days advance notice to plan for patient needs.

“The ball is now in the university’s court,” said Anne Jackson, an RN in pediatric multi-specialty clinics. “We’ve had a productive relationship for many years, and the work of our members has helped the UM Health System grow and win top state and national rankings. Right now, we need university officials to stop violating our rights so we can negotiate a fair agreement, with safe patient care as our top priority.”

Masson said Michigan Medicine offered across-the-board salary increases of at least 3 percent and a paid maternal/parental leave program that includes six weeks of paid leave for physiological recovery from birth of a child and six weeks of paid parental leave to employees after a birth, adoption or foster care and guardianship. 

"The UMPNC must give us an official 10-day notice of a strike and we still hope to avoid any work stoppages," Masson said in prepared statement on Monday. "Since UMPNC announced it was seeking the vote, Michigan Medicine leaders have been developing a comprehensive continuity of operations plan in the event of a strike. This will include hiring and training temporary nurses to replace absent employees, deferring and rescheduling select procedures and making staff scheduling adjustments as needed. Michigan Medicine remains committed to patient safety during any union activity, and will do everything possible to maintain the highest quality of care during a strike.

"Because it is illegal for public employees to strike, Michigan Medicine will take legal action to avoid a strike."  

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