6,200 University of Michigan nurses to vote on possible strike

Members of the Michigan Nurses Association will vote from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2 on whether to authorize nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike at the University of Michigan.

The union, an affiliate of National Nurses United and AFL-CIO, represents about 13,000 registered nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan, including workers employed by the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan regents hold the contract with the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, the largest bargaining unit of the Michigan Nurses Association. 

A total of 6,200 University of Michigan Health nurses have been working without a new contract since July 1; they are working under the terms of the expired agreement, according to hospital and union statements. The University of Michigan Health, the clinical division of Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine, told Becker's in a statement that it "has been engaged in collective bargaining with MNA/UMPNC since March with the shared goal to ensure our organization remains a world-class work and care environment and a destination for nursing excellence." The University of Michigan Health also pointed to its contract offer that includes a 21 percent base pay increase for nurses over four years, as well as safely eliminating mandatory overtime, among other provisions. 

The union contends the University of Michigan has refused to bargain over safe workloads regarding the number of patients assigned per nurse and engaged in bad faith bargaining. As a result, it filed a lawsuit Aug. 15 and announced the planned strike authorization vote Aug. 19. "We take any potential work stoppage very seriously and it's unfortunate that we’ve been pushed to this point," University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council President Renee Curtis, RN, said in a news release. "We cannot stand by, though, while the university continues to violate our rights and break the law. We owe it to our patients and communities to stand up for ourselves, and that’s why we're holding this work stoppage vote." 

If union members vote to authorize a strike, it does not mean a strike would occur. However, it would authorize nurse negotiation leaders to call one following a 10-day notice to the university. 

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