With More Than 4,000 Votes Cast, 94% of U of M Nurses Vote to Authorize Work Stoppage in Protest of Unfair Labor Practices

For Immediate Release
Contact: sara.wallenfang@minurses.org, 517.974.4966

No date has been set, but the elected nurse bargaining team now has the authority to call for action

(Ann Arbor, MI) With high turnout, a strong majority of nurses at the University of Michigan have voted to authorize a work stoppage of up to three days to protest ongoing and continuous violations of their workplace rights, the University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council (UMPNC) announced today.

“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.”

Members of UMPNC, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, voted to authorize a work stoppage during meetings, which took place from Monday, Sept 10 through Sunday, Sept. 16.

No date has been set for a possible work stoppage, which has now been authorized by union members if University officials fail to remedy their ongoing unfair labor practices. If nurse leaders determine that a stoppage is necessary, they will give the University at least ten days advance notice to plan for patient needs.

“The University keeps violating our rights.” said Katie Scott, cardiovascular RN. “They’ve created a wall that’s blocking us from negotiating the issues that are important to nurses and our patients. We’re saying, break down that wall so we can bargain in good faith.”

UMPNC members have filed unfair labor practice charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to challenge actions by University administrators as illegal. The charges state that University officials are violating Michigan labor law by:

  • 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;
  • Discriminating against union members who are engaged in legally protected speech in support of their right to collective bargaining.

One example of bad faith bargaining is that University officials, including Dr. David Spahlinger, president of the University of Michigan Health System, have stated in an email to nurses and in comments to media organizations that they are “committed to maintaining current staffing levels.” During contract negotiations, however, University administrators refused make any such commitment in writing, directly contradicting their communications to union members and the public.

Such bait-and-switch tactics are a violation of Michigan labor law.

“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.”

UMPNC represents more than 5,700 RNs at University of Michigan hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities.

The University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council is an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA). MNA is the largest, most effective union for registered nurses in Michigan, advocating for nurses and their patients at the State Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table.

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