University of Michigan nurses approve unfair labor practice strike in union vote

No work stoppage has been scheduled, said U-M officials

University of Michigan's University Hospital is shown in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, March 21, 2020. (Paul Sancya, The Associated Press 2020)

ANN ARBOR – Nurses at the University of Michigan voted to give their elected nurse bargaining team authority to call a strike in protest of what they’re calling unfair labor practices by the university.

More than 4,000 members of the Michigan Nurses Association-University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council voted last week with 96% voting in favor of the strike.

The overwhelming majority allows the leaders to call a work stoppage.

”The vote shows that thousands of nurses are united in standing up for their rights and demanding respect,” president of MNA-UMPNC Renee Curtis said in a statement. “We will not sit by while the university violates the law, especially when it comes to their refusal to negotiate over safe workloads. Nurses are ready to do whatever it takes to hold the university accountable.”

University officials said they are disappointed with the vote at a time when a resolution is close to being reached at the bargaining table.

“This vote authorizes a strike, but no work stoppages have been scheduled,” reads a U-M Health statement. “Patients can still expect to receive the same high quality care at our hospitals and health centers. We are currently planning to ensure safe staffing levels if a work stoppage occurs.”

In August, the union filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit against the university, saying nurses are assigned too many patients, which directly impacts safety and quality of care.

According to MNA-UMPNC, its 6,200 nurses have been working without a contract since July 1.

“We just want the university to respect our rights, voice, and union,” MNA-UMPNC member Anne Jackson said in a statement. “We’re sick and tired of being disrespected by the university. We know that our community and our patients are behind us, and we’re ready to do what’s necessary.”

For its part, U-M said it has put together a “compelling and generous” proposal for its nurses, which includes:

  • A $245 million investment and 21% base pay increase over four years, including a 6% raise in the first year and 5% per year for the next three years
  • A $4,000 bonus for each member of the bargaining unit
  • Safely eliminating mandatory overtime
  • Expanded staffing guidelines to maintain our excellent, industry-leading staffing levels

University officials said the hospital nurse vacancy rate is still low at 5%, compared to 17% nationally.

“We are proud of our nurses and proud of the care we deliver,” reads a university statement. “A work stoppage or strike is not in the best interests of our nurses, our organization and, most importantly, our patients. We believe we are close to a final agreement and are ready to invest the time to get there.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.