People wearing red hold up a banner that reads 'Nurses United, UMPNC MI Nurses Association.'
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Members of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, a branch of the Michigan Nurses Association, marched from the Detroit Observatory to the Board of Regents meeting at the Alexander G. Ruthven Building Thursday to gain support for fair contract negotiations. 

Over 100 nurses and community members wore red in support of the bargaining team and marched amidst the ongoing negotiations, which began on March 15. Union members also delivered a petition signed by over 4,000 UMPNC members to the board. The United We Bargain petition outlines UMPNC nurses’ commitment to fighting for a fair contract. 

According to an MNA press release, the University’s contract with 6,200 nurses is set to expire on June 30. UMPNC members’ original demands included an end to understaffing; enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios; an end to multi-unit positions and unsafe floating; fair wages; a solution to the economic and contractual inequalities facing advanced practice registered nurses; safe parking; paid time off fairness and accessibility; equitable incentives; hazard pay; and the maintenance and improvement of employee benefits. 

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Renee Curtis, current president of UMPNC, emphasized the importance of the union’s demands and said she believes the understaffing has led to nurse burnout, increased turnover, worse patient outcomes and increased wait times for care. 

“This is about safe patient care,” Curtis said. “We know what’s happening in the walls of our hospital and it needs to change.”

According to a June 8 UMPNC update, Michigan Medicine has not met several of the union’s original demands that would reduce  mandatory overtime and multi-unit positions. 

“Michigan Medicine continues to try and justify their reliance on unfair staffing methods as needing ‘flexibility,’ while our members suffer under the abuse of mandatory overtime, multi-unit positions and excessive on-call hours,” the update read.

Several Michigan Medicine nurses spoke at the June 16 board meeting to garner the regents’ support for their contract negotiations. 

UMPNC member Adam Paulsen, a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse at Michigan Medicine, spoke about the understaffing issue and showed his support for UMPNC’s demands.

“We just want to keep patients safe (and) valued while we take care of them,” Paulsen said. “Your management team must remember that I am not a cost. I’m an investment. Nurses are an investment in this hospital and this community and we deserve a contract that reflects that.”

Anne Jackson, former president of UMPNC and registered nurse at Michigan Medicine, outlined the nurses’ contract demands. 

“Over 4,000 UMPNC nurses have signed a petition and are united in demanding an end to the understaffing through safe and contractually enforceable nurse-patient ratios, fair compensation that recruits and retains nurses and outpaces inflation, (and) an end to the unsafe mandatory overtime,” Jackson said. “Nurses are committed to continuing to work in good faith at the bargaining table. But so far the University has not brought real solutions. Nurses need a contract that protects our patients.”

Regent Denise Ilitch (D) responded to several of the UMPNC members and said she had been assured that their concerns were being addressed.  

“I admire your tirelessness and advocating for our nurses, who we value so much, and honor your 38 years of experience,” Illitch said in her response to Jackson. “Please come back and continue to give us updates. We are being assured that these issues that you’ve outlined are being addressed. But please come back and keep us updated.”

Daily News Contributor Camryn Reitzel can be reached at jreitzel@umich.edu.