The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council and the Michigan Nurses Association held a meeting Thursday evening in Tisch Hall to update the public about bargaining efforts with the University. Members of UMPNC, the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and more were present at the event. About 100 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the meeting.
The meeting comes after UMPNC voted on Sept. 17 to authorize a work stoppage because of a lack of progress in the negotiation process. There is also a petition circulating to support the nurses in their efforts.
UMPNC represents more than 5,700 registered nurses at University hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities. The UMPNC has filed unfair labor practice charges against the University for failing to bargain in good faith, making changes in work shifts without notification and discrimination against free speech.
UMPNC is also campaigning for safer staffing ratios between nurses and patients. UMPNC has said that the University has broken the written agreement on these ratios by having nurses work with more patients than what is written in the agreement and putting patient safety at risk.
Anne Jackson, a registered nurse at Michigan Medicine, began the meeting by explaining that Michigan Medicine operates more like a corporation rather than a hospital system.
“We all know it’s become a corporation not only from the University hospital side but also the academic side as well,” Jackson said.
If a work stoppage is authorized, the nurses will picket and host a rally to make their cause better known. The nurses will be required to give the University a 10-day notice before a work stoppage date occurs.
History Professor Howard Brick recounted his positive experience with quality of care by nurses at Michigan Medicine when he contracted viral meningitis in 2015. He spent five days in the hospital and stressed the importance of supporting the nurses.
“The nurses want codification of the staffing rules and to make sure that nurses have a voice in whatever meetings or councils that determine those staffing rules over time,” Brick said.
Michigan Medicine Nurse Marianne Aranda said these efforts are for future nurses to come at Michigan Medicine.
“I’m fighting for all the nurses and all the people that are going to come in front of me so they have something to hang onto and so that nursing will still be something when you’re passionate about it, you still can do,” Aranda said.
In August, the hospital system was ranked fifth in the nation by US News & World Report. When this announcement came out, nurses called out the University for not acknowledging their efforts in achieving this ranking.
Members of LEO were also present at the meeting. LEO underwent a similar bargaining experience with the University earlier this year regarding wages and benefits. LEO and the University came to a contract agreement on June 22, but only after authorizing a strike action. The union reached an agreement with the University before they were scheduled to picket.
LEO President Ian Robinson, a lecturer in the Sociology Department, echoed Jackson’s comments about the University operating as a corporation. He agreed a change from the University side comes from the unions rallying for their cause.
“The University of Michigan administration often behaves when left to its own devices like a private, for-profit corporation,” Robinson said. “It tries to maximize its revenues and tries to extract as much tuition as it can from its students and tries to extract as much labor as possible for as little money as it can … They respond to power.”
LSA senior Griffin St. Onge worked with LEO last school year and is on the outreach team of the University’s chapter of College Democrats. She believes student financial investment should make students involved with how staff members are treated.
“It’s a very big financial cost to come to this institution,” St. Onge said. “The question is, ‘Where is this money going if not in the people who invest in me?’ … I think there are certain obligations this school has for the public good so I think there’s a lot of room there for students to be really interested in what the nurses are going up against.”
Bargaining will continue Friday, marking the 100th day of negations between UMPNC and the University.