NURSE Strength Through Collective Bargaining

UMPNC members celebrate the night their contract was ratified.

Through collective bargaining, nurses speaking with a unified voice are recognized as equal partners in health care. The Michigan Nurses Association has more experience representing nurses at the bargaining table than any other organization in the state.

In today’s health care environment, collective bargaining is proving to be one of the most effective ways to protect patients from inadequate and unsafe care. It also ensures that nurses have fair pay, good benefits, and safe working conditions; establishes effective channels of communication with those who make decisions that impact nursing practice; and advances nurses’ professional growth and development.

Below are recently ratified collective bargaining agreements and settlements.

University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC):

About 5,700 nurses at U of M won a three-year, patient-centered agreement to fully support continued world-class nursing care. Between October 7th and 10th of 2018, union members voted overwhelmingly to accept the contract, which took effect immediately once the votes were counted.

“Our members are extremely proud of the contract that we achieved through collective action,” said Katie Oppenheim, RN and chair of UMPNC. “Because we stuck together, we won staffing language with enforceable commitments and procedures. Nurses will have an effective means of ensuring that staffing decisions are always based on patient care.”

In addition to enforceable, transparent safe staffing language, the new contract ensures that nurses will be able to select their own representatives to workplace committees.

“As the University of Michigan Health System continues to expand, nurses will continue to advocate for patients,” said Deborah Totzkay, operating room nurse educator.

“Through committee members that nurses select, we will have a real voice to raise safety concerns and make sure they are addressed. Our union contract will help guarantee that patients always come before profits.”

The contract also addresses concerns over the Victors Care program, concierge medicine for those who can afford to pay $3,600 extra per year. The new agreement specifies that any revenues from Victors Care will be used to provide healthcare access for socio-economically disadvantaged patients.

“I am glad that we were able to work together on Victors Care and come up with a solution that benefits the entire community,” said Desiree Conyers, ambulatory care RN. “In addition, ambulatory care is expanding and nurses will be involved on the front end of those changes to guarantee that every patient is treated like a VIP.”

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) – a category that consists of nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists – have much to celebrate in the new contract.

“Substantial gains were made for nurse practitioners,” said Barbara Van Kainen, certified nurse midwife. “The contract provides APRNs with fair compensation and advances our professional interests.”

Among many gains, nurses won new sexual harassment protections, parental leave, and language limiting the use of mandatory overtime.

“The new contract achieved significant improvements for nurses and patients without sacrificing any of the benefits that make Michigan Medicine a great place to work,” said John Karebian, Executive Director of the Michigan Nurses Association. “Through collective action, members were able to convince management that attracting and retaining skilled RNs by ensuring an outstanding wage and benefits package is in the best interest of patients and the hospital. We are optimistic that this agreement will usher in a new era of collaboration and goodwill between nurses and administrators.”

Alpena MidMichigan Medical Center:

Nurses ratified a three-year agreement with a revamped wage scale that provides substantial wage increases in the first year for a majority of nurses and yearly step increases for all nurses in the long-term. RNs also maintained a cap on insurance costs and language that protects employer contributions to retirement, which will help attract and retain nurses.

Oakland County Health System:

Nurses ratified a three-year agreement with wage increases in the first and third year, and a wage reopener in the second year. While not part of the contract, the county will also provide name badges with first name and last initial only, which is a huge victory for RN safety.

Portage UP Health System:

Nurses ratified a three-year agreement with guaranteed wage increases each year of the agreement, as well as language that protects health insurance benefits for part-time nurses and locks in the employer contribution to retirement.

Allegan General Hospital:

In spite of hospital-wide financial cuts, nurses negotiated and voted to ratify a new four-year contract. The agreement is retroactive to October 4, 2016 and will expire on October 3, 2020. Nurses won incentives to staff the hospital in the summer and over the holidays. Wage increases over next two years will help attract and retain skilled RNs.

Aspirus Iron River:

Through the contract enforcement and mediation process, homecare nurses won a settlement for about $17,000 in backpay.

Our union investigated Aspirus’ use of “non-productive time” that placed a high productivity burden on the homecare nurses. Through a four-month legal battle, including an Unfair Labor Practice charge, nurses proceeded to mediation and secured a near $17,000 award for all unpaid work performed “off the clock.” A two-month hold was placed on all productivity related disciplines, and more hands-on training about productivity expectations was held with the members.

Marquette – UP Health System:

After over a year of negotiations that included an informational picket, press conferences and a 48-hour strike, Marquette registered nurses voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement.

On June 1, nurses at UP Health System in Marquette voted to ratify a new contract with Duke LifePoint.

The contract is a four-year agreement that took effect on June 1, 2018. The new contract contains many improvements for nurses and patients, including language to ensure that nurses have a stronger voice in staffing decisions and an attractive economic package.
“The agreement that we reached is a win for patients across the UP,” said Scott Balko, Operating Room RN and President of the UPHS Marquette Staff Council/MNA. “Our new agreement contains significant wage increases and fair benefits which will help attract and retain nurses to serve the region. Quality health insurance means that those on the frontlines of patient care will be able to care for themselves and their families without worry. After a long negotiations process, we are hopeful that Duke LifePoint recognizes this contract as an opportunity to work with their nursing staff on continued improvements. Nurses will continue to be advocates to ensure the highest quality care for our patients, and we see the contract as a step in the right direction.”

McLaren Lapeer Region:

After a successful informational picket and a strike authorization vote, nurses at McLaren Lapeer voted to ratify a new contract on July 20. The 3-year contract is retroactive to May 10, 2017 – the day after the previous contract expired. Nurses won improvements to nurse/patient ratios and better procedures to address staffing concerns. Assigning nurses reasonable numbers of patients will help ensure safety and quality care. There are also significant wage increases that will help recruit and retain talented RNs.

“Nurses are ready to move forward and build on our commitment to what has always mattered most – making McLaren Lapeer the best hospital it can be,” said Thomas Hall, RN, President of Lapeer Staff Nurse Council. “We greatly appreciate the support from our community and fellow hospital employees throughout this process. With a strong contract in place, nurses will be able to advocate more effectively at our hospital and put patients first.”

Nurses are stronger when we stand united.

For more information about your contract or bargaining unit, please contact your local MNA representative. If you are interested in forming a union at your health care facility, please contact MNA at 888-MINURSE.