Nurses at Michigan Medicine, based out of Ann Arbor and affiliated with the University of Michigan, voted last week to authorize a three-day strike “in protest of the University’s unfair labor practices.”
No date for the strike has been set, but the vote allows the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) bargaining team to submit a 10-day strike notice if they feel it’s necessary, according to the union’s statement.
“Our goal is not a work stoppage,” said Katie Oppenheim, RN and chair of UMPNC in the statement. “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.”
Of the approximately 5,000 nurses represented by the UMPNC, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, more than 4,000 voted last week to authorize a strike.
Nurses at the facility have worked without a contract since it expired on June 30 this year. UMPNC and university officials began contract negotiations in January but have struggled to lock down a new agreement. A state mediator joined the bargaining table on July 10 to help parties reach a final agreement, but little progress has been made.
“We are disappointed that our UMPNC nurses have voted to approve a strike,” said Mary Masson, director of public relations for Michigan Medicine. “We have been bargaining in good faith since January and have offered a competitive package.”
If nurses decide to initiate a strike, the Michigan Medicine legal team is prepared to pursue legal action because “it is illegal for public employees to strike,” the university said in their bargaining update Tuesday.
Michigan Medicine is also prepared to bring in temporary nursing staff if a strike notice is issued and “has been developing contingency plans in the event of a strike.”
The union main complaints, according to the statement, include: failing to bargain in good faith, including over terms and conditions of employment; making changes in work shifts without notifying or negotiating with the union; and discriminating against union members who are engaged in legally protected speech in support of their right to collective bargaining.
UMPNC filed four unfair labor practice charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission about these issues on September 12.
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