The 12th Assembly of the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government (CSG) convened via Zoom Tuesday evening to listen to University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) members discuss their concerns about Michigan Medicine’s mistreatment of nurses.
The assembly discussed the UMPNC’s allegations surrounding their contract negotiations with Michigan Medicine. UMPNC member Anne Jackson represented the council and addressed the assembly on the issue. Jackson said the University disappointed the UMPNC by refusing to work with the union in renegotiating their contract.
“We have a 48-year-old contract that our employer has decided they want to try and rewrite. And we’re not having it,” Jackson said.
UMPNC has been negotiating with the University for months and authorized a strike last Friday. Concerns from the council arose after the Michigan Nurses Association accused Michigan Medicine of violating the Public Employment Relations Act 336 of 1947 by refusing to negotiate nurses workloads. Jackson, who has been a part of UMPNC for 38 years, said the pandemic prompted the University to make layoffs, increasing nurse workload.
“In June 2020, the University freaked out that (they were) not going to make a profit, and so they laid off 788 people,” Jackson said. “There were no nurses that went out the door. But everybody that went out the door (created work) that a nurse then had to take on.”
With increased layoffs, Jackson said jobs were left unfilled, leaving the remaining nurses with increased hours per patient day, the number of hours worked in a 24 hour day by a single nurse.
“It was a lot more work for nurses with less support,” Jackson said. “Nurses are doing everything and they are exhausted. They are fed up. They are frustrated, and they’ve been asking to go on strike since their contract expired in July.”
Jackson then brought up concerns over the University’s compensation for nurses. Jackson said offering competitive wages is critical for patient safety because as more nurses leave for higher pay elsewhere, fewer are available to work.
“You can’t get the nurses to work in your institution without offering competitive wages,” Jackson said. “It’s about how many patients a nurse has to take care of and how safe or unsafe that is. So basically what you’re telling the patients of Michigan (Medicine) is you’re not worth the money to safely staff our hospital. And that’s the mentality that unfortunately this hospital has been dealing with for quite some time. We have patients dying now because we don’t have the resources that we need.”
CSG Speaker Karthik Pasupula expressed his gratitude for Michigan nurses and called for support from the student body.
“I’ve been to Michigan Medicine a few times and I know that the work that they do is invaluable,” Pasupula said. “It’s going to be much easier for them to get what they deserve if they have campus community support. It’s important that our frontline workers are treated with the respect that they deserve.”
Jackson said there has been net zero hiring of new nurses in 2022, and senior nurses are leaving as well.
“The nurses are so short-staffed that they can’t adequately orient (the new hires). So they don’t stay because they’re demoralized,” Jackson said. “Senior nurses are leaving because they can’t give the care that they’ve been giving our hospital for decades and decades and decades.”
Rackham student Austin Glass said he believes Jackson’s speech was informative and could help the student body empathize with the nurses.
“I think (hearing from Jackson) really brought a lot of clarity to (the assembly), and hopefully we can then share that out with the rest of our colleagues and peers in the student body to help them understand the issues that nurses are facing,” Glass said.
The assembly also heard from Engineering junior Maria Fields, who proposed an event called “The Cookout” — a gathering where student organizations can showcase unique food, dance, and music.
“I am interested in doing a huge campus day celebration focused on culture and community, ” Fields said. “Particularly, I’m looking towards doing something that focuses on dance, music and food, like a potluck.”
Fields proposed to host “The Cookout” on the Diag and asked CSG to consider funding the event from the budget set aside for student organizations and projects. Fields said she wants to have schoolwide participation and contribute to the diversity of the University community.
CSG agreed to consider Field’s proposal, but has not yet discussed the funding for the event.
The meeting then moved on to elections, confirmations and nominations. Public Health senior and CSG representative Sarah Cieslak was nominated as a member for the Disability Empowerment, Advocacy, and Service Scholarship Task Force.
Daily Staff Reporter Joey Lin can be reached at email@example.com.