Ascension nurses in Michigan consider strike authorization vote

Members of the Michigan Nurses Association at Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo said they intend to hold a strike authorization vote unless a tentative agreement for a new contract is reached soon.

The union, an affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO, announced the plan in a Nov. 29 news release shared with Becker's.

Union members have been in negotiations with hospital management, and their last contract expired Nov. 11. Both sides are scheduled to resume negotiations Dec. 1.

Nurses plan to hold a strike authorization vote Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 if an agreement is not reached by the end of the week.

"We are exhausted. We are fed up. We are done watching our rights be taken away by corporate executives," Lori Batzloff, RN, a nurse at Ascension and president of the local Michigan Nurses Association, said in the release. "It's time for this company to respect its employees and for patients to come before profits. While we are hopeful that negotiations will go well on [Dec. 1], it is important for us to let Ascension know that nurses are prepared to do what it takes."

Becker's reached out to Ascension Borgess for comment on Nov. 29.

In a statement shared with Becker's on Nov. 13, the hospital said that during negotiations, it has bargained in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the union.

"Our ongoing goal is to support all of our associates in a just and equitable manner as we continue to provide safe, compassionate care to those we are privileged to serve," the Ascension statement said. "We feel our current offer supports this goal on all levels, including an average RN wage increase of 19 percent in the first year of the contract, and additional raises for the following two years."

But the union said the raises in the second and third years do not include cost of living adjustments, which could result in workforce shortages.

Union members also expressed concerns over what they say is a proposal requiring nurses to work every other weekend and what they say are proposed cuts to retirement benefits. They said Ascension has also proposed eliminating the family or medical leave option for part-time nurses.

The Michigan Nurses Association represents about 13,000 nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan. Ascension Borgess is part of Ascension, a nonprofit system based in St. Louis. 

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