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 of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) voted to authorize a strike Friday afternoon after months of unsuccessful contract negotiations with the University, according to a statement from the union. The authorization is not an announcement of an immediate work stoppage but would allow the bargaining unit to call for a strike at any point. 

According to the statement, 96% of voting members voted in favor of the strike authorization. The release says the union would only call for a strike if they deem it “absolutely necessary” to protest the University’s alleged unfair labor practices. 

An FAQ section regarding the vote on the UMPNC website says union leadership sought authorization to strike because it believes the University has violated labor practices in its negotiations. 

“We are voting to authorize a work stoppage for the purpose of protesting the university’s alleged unfair labor practices,” the website reads. “We believe the university has failed to bargain in good faith, made improper changes to our working conditions, and has undermined our elected union … We just want the university to respect our rights, voice, and union.”

Michigan Medicine spokeswoman Mary Masson said in a statement that the University was disappointed in the UMPNC’s decision to authorize a strike and that preparations are being made if a work stoppage were to occur. 

“Patients can still expect to receive the same high quality care at our hospitals and health centers,” Masson said in the statement. “We are currently planning to ensure safe staffing levels if a work stoppage occurs.”  

The UMPNC is a branch of the Michigan Nurses Association, which published a statement on the vote Friday and said over 4,000 MNA-UMPNC members participated in the vote.

“The vote shows that thousands of nurses are united in standing up for their rights and demanding respect,” Renee Curtis, president of MNA-UMPNC, wrote in the statement. “We will not sit by while the university violates the law, especially when it comes to their refusal to negotiate over safe workloads. Nurses are ready to do whatever it takes to hold the university accountable.”

The strike authorization comes after the MNA filed a lawsuit last month alleging the University violated the Public Employment Relations Act of 1947 by refusing to bargain over nurses’ workloads. Negotiations between the University and Michigan Medicine nurses have been ongoing since March 15, with nurses having worked without a contract since the previous one expired on July 1. 

According to Masson, the nurse’s union and the University are close to a resolution. The current proposal includes a 21% base pay increase in nurses over the next four years, the elimination of mandatory overtime and a $4,000 bonus for each member of the bargaining unit.  

The union said in the statement that members would be attending the next Board of Regents meeting on September 22 to “make sure (the regents) understand what Michigan Medicine’s administration has been doing.”

Daily Staff Reporter Irena Li can be reached at irenayli@umich.edu.