Michigan Medicine nurses and supporters attend a picket for safer conditions and a fair contract organized by the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council at Fuller Park. After, they marched around the hospital buildings July 16. Tess Crowley/Daily.  Buy this photo.

The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.

The Michigan Nurses Association filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan amid ongoing contract negotiations with the University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council. The suit, filed Monday in the Court of Claims, alleges that the administration has violated state law by refusing to negotiate with the union over nurses’ workload. 

Specifically, the lawsuit claims the University is violating the Public Employment Relations Act of 1947, which requires bargaining agreements between public employers and labor organizations to consider “wages, hours and other conditions of employment.” According to a statement from the MNA, 6,200 nurses in the union have worked without a contract since July 1, when the union’s previous contract with the University expired. The two parties have yet to reach a new agreement and have been negotiating since March 15.

The Association also cited statistics identifying high workload ratios as responsible for preventable infections and injuries among patients and nurses in the United States. Renee Curtis, UMPNC president and registered nurse, said patient safety was the union’s primary concern.

“Our union is fighting for patient safety, first and foremost,” Curtis said in a statement. “It’s absurd to think that conversations about how to keep patients safe can be effective without talking about our nurses’ workloads.”

In an email to The Michigan Daily, Michigan Medicine spokesperson Mary Masson wrote that University of Michigan Health, Michigan Medicine’s clinical division, will “vigorously defend itself” in the lawsuit. 

Masson wrote that the University’s current contract offer provides a 6 percent raise for first-year nurses and a 5 percent raise per year for the next three years. The University has also offered to  introduce a salary step program for nurse practitioners and eliminate mandatory overtime to address overtime

“University of Michigan Health makes staffing determinations with patient safety at the forefront of its decisions, and this has produced outstanding safety results,” Masson wrote. “We continue to bargain in good faith.”

In addition to the lawsuit, MNA filed an unfair labor practice charge against the University with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. Pending the MERC ruling, the lawsuit asks for an injunction that would immediately force the University to bargain over nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.