NURSE Strength Through Collective Bargaining

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.

Gratiot nurses gain big with new contract

MNA nurses at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot in Alma ratified a new contract in January that includes improved staffing language as well as raises to achieve parity within the MidMichigan Health system.

The ratification comes after nearly 200 nurses and community supporters held an informational picket outside the hospital in December.

“We have shown the corporate executives of the MidMichigan Health system that Gratiot nurses are union strong and that we’re not afraid to fight for what is right,” said Shenan Shinaberger, RN, president of the local union.

Jackson County Medical Care Facility

The bargaining team worked to address the time and attendance policy at JCMCF. The threat of exposure to the flu was an important focus in negotiations in order to keep residents of a long-term care facility healthy. Additional excused absences were negotiated in order to allow nurses to stay home if they were ill with the flu. The nurses won improved language to reduce mandatory overtime and greater incentives for nurses to agree to work additional shifts. The nurses also won improvements in the provisions for holiday pay and overtime to ensure safe staffing for those weeks.

Macomb County Health Department

RNs on the Macomb County Health Department Bargaining Team held conversations with their co-workers to learn members’ priorities. One of the priorities was wanting to win release time. Because there are multiple facilities and no Health Department-specific new hire orientation, nurses wanted to win paid time to be able to more effectively build their union.

They succeeded. The recently ratified contract includes language that will allow the president of the Nurses Staff Council of Macomb County (or a designated representative) to spend one hour a week doing union work. By winning provisions to have a stronger union, Macomb County Health Department members will be able to better advocate for their patients. Additionally, the members won raises, improved protections for just cause employment, and improve bereavement leave.

Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility

After years of management not paying comparable salaries with other facilities, the Registered Nurses Staff Council of Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility ratified a three-year contract, including wage increases between 26% and 34%, depending on seniority and position.

Munson Manistee Hospital

A tentative agreement was reached in September and ratified by the membership as the result of united bargaining, an informational picket, strong communications, a town hall, and yard signs placed throughout the community. The demands of the hospital were hugely concessionary, and  being recently purchased by a large corporate entity (Munson), the members were able to fight off many of their demands and won a contract that moves nurses forward.

With the new contract and the fairly new owner, the nurses are now turning their attention to building their strength to continue advocating for patients in Manistee.

Munson Traverse City

Munson Traverse City RNs ratify historic first contract.

Nurses at Munson Medical Center overwhelmingly voted to ratify their first contract. The agreement limits forced overtime, provides nurses a formal structure to address RN staffing levels, and implements new workplace safety procedures that will benefit patients. Nurses also won a 13% raise over the course of the three-year contract, which will help to recruit and retain quality RNs.

The nurses’ victory at Munson Medical Center makes this the largest successful unionization effort since Michigan went “Right to Work” in 2013.

“We are proud to have achieved a historic contract for our patients and our community,” said Shelly DuBois, RN. “Nurses came together to have a voice in our hospital.”

In addition to other gains, nurses have won improved scheduling standards, an enforceable grievance procedure, and guaranteed health care levels through their union contract.

Sturgis Hospital

The Town Hall meeting about Sturgis Hospital’s issues was standing room only.

In December 2018, the Sturgis community was taken by surprise when it was announced that the OB and cancer transfusion departments at Sturgis Hospital would be closing. Members of the Sturgis Hospital RN Staff Council were especially horrified – their patients would now have to travel at least 50 minutes to receive care.

Together with State Rep. Aaron Miller, the nurses hosted a Town Hall so that community members could ask questions of CEO Robert LaBarge. Sturgis community members packed the gymnasium of the school. The cancer transfusion treatment center stayed open and Robert LaBarge was dismissed from the CEO position soon thereafter.

In light of those changes, the nurses bargained a one-year contract that preserved wages and healthcare. Nurses held on to the ability to keep spouses on their benefit plans and maintained health savings account contributions in a one-year contract. Since then, the nurses have ratified a one-year contract extension that includes quarterly bonuses. Both of the contracts were bargained in tandem with the two other bargaining units in the hospital, allowing for a strong and united union workforce.

Three Rivers Hospital

Issues on the table included excessive mandatory overtime, floating to other units and pay for precepting a new nursing school graduate. The Three Rivers Area Hospital Staff Council members were able to win new language on all of the priorities set by the membership. When management tried to force steep increases to healthcare, the nurses worked to ensure wage increases. The nurses worked to ensure wage increases to offset incremental increases to healthcare costs and not negatively impact nurses and their families.

Professional Nurses Association of Huron Valley Sinai Hospital

By an overwhelming majority, registered nurses at DMC Huron Valley – Sinai Hospital voted to ratify their first contract with the hospital that includes safe staffing language to protect patients, wage increases to retain nurses, and important job protections.

“I am so proud of what nurses achieved by forming a union and sticking together. For the first time, we have a grievance procedure with enforceable contract language on professional development, health and safety,” said Judy Moore, RN, and bargaining team member. “These tools will help us protect patients and will serve as a model for other DMC hospitals.”

“The economic gains that we made mean that our hospital will be able to attract and retain skilled nurses,” said Ann Kastelen, RN, bargaining team member. “Having enough nurses on duty is an important part of safe patient care, and this contract will help make sure that is a reality.”

Nurses voted to approve the tentative agreement after more than two years of negotiations. The contract was ratified based on a democratic vote open to all Michigan Nurses Association members at DMC Huron Valley – Sinai Hospital.

“This is a huge leap forward, not just for Huron Valley nurses, but for our patients and for the entire DMC system,” said Kathy Lehman, RN, President of the Professional Nurses Association of Huron Valley – Sinai Hospital. “We deeply appreciate the support our fellow hospital employees and the community at-large provided throughout this process. With a strong contract in place, nurses will be able to advocate more effectively for quality care.”

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.

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

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, 2018. 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.