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UM nurses vote to authorize three-day work stoppage

hospital exterior
Michigan Medicine
Nurses at the University of Michigan have voted to authorize their union to call for a three-day strike if the university does not respond to claims of unfair labor practices.

Nurses at the University of Michigan hospital have voted to authorize their union to call a three-day work stoppage if the university does not respond to claims of unfair labor practices. Ninety-four percent of the votes were in favor of the authorization.

The Michigan Professional Nurses Council filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

The lawsuit accuses the university of unfair labor practices including:

  • Failing to bargain in good faith.
  • Discriminating against union members who are engaged in legally protected speech in support of their right to collective bargaining.
  • Making changes in work shifts without notifying or negotiating with the union

No date for a work stoppage has been set, but the nurses' council says they will give the hospital 10 days advance notice.
"We want to send a message to the employer that we are ready and willing to sit down and really bargain anytime," registered nurse Katie Oppenheim told Stateside. Oppenheim is chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council. 

The university says a work stoppage could put patient safety at risk. Mary Masson, the Director of Public Relations at Michigan Medicine, provided Michigan Radio with a statement that reads, in part: 

Nurses are critical to the delivery of safe patient care. The most critically ill patients in the state come to Michigan Medicine. A strike could put patient safety at serious risk. The UMPNC must give us an official 10-day notice of a strike and we still hope to avoid any work stoppages. Since UMPNC announced it was seeking the vote, Michigan Medicine leaders have been developing a comprehensive continuity of operations plan in place in the event of a strike. This will include hiring and training temporary nurses to replace absent employees, deferring and rescheduling select procedures and making staff scheduling adjustments as needed. Michigan Medicine remains committed to patient safety during any union activity, and will do everything possible to maintain the highest quality of care during a strike. Because it is illegal for public employees to strike, Michigan Medicine will take legal action to avoid a strike.

You can find the full statement from Michigan Medicine here.

This post was updated at 3:35 p.m. on Monday, September 17, 2018 

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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