Nurses at Michigan Medicine, the medical arm of the University of Michigan, have filed a federal lawsuit against the university, alleging it isn’t letting them wear pro-union buttons and T-shirts. The filing comes as the 5,700 union nurses are in the midst of voting on whether to authorize a strike as contract talks between the two sides have stalled.
“Our nurse bargaining team believes it is time to hold management accountable for bad faith bargaining, making changes to our working conditions without any negotiations and discriminating against RNs for exercising our right to free speech,” Megan Duncan, RN, a nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital, said in a news release.
The nurses also filed four unfair labor practice charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, alleging university officials are violating Michigan labor law, including failure to bargain in good faith; making changes in work shifts without notifying or negotiating with the union; refusing to bargain in good faith over terms and conditions of employment, and discriminating against union members who are engaged in legally protected speech in support of their right to collective bargaining.
“Time and again, university administrators have shown blatant disregard and disrespect for the rights of nurses,” John Karebian, executive director of the Michigan Nurses Association, said in a news release. “Anyone who thinks our members can be scared into silence doesn’t know much about nurses or the nursing profession.”
Not so, said Michigan Medicine spokeswoman Mary Masson.
“Michigan Medicine is confident all of its efforts in these negotiations have been consistent with the First Amendment and putting our patients first,” she said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend the university from this lawsuit that further hinders our ability to reach a contract agreement. We remain opposed to the union’s efforts to bring labor negotiations into patient care areas.
“We stand ready to continue contract talks.”
The two largest issues during the contract talks are wages and staffing ratios. On the latter, the union wants U-M to codify in writing the current staffing levels as the minimum levels not to be reduced, according to the unfair labor practice allegation filed by the union.
Nurses have been showing up to meetings of the U-M Board of Regents for the past several months to protest the direction of the talks. The nurses will vote until Sunday on whether to authorize a strike against the health system.
Masson said U-M has been fair in its offers.
“Michigan Medicine has offered the nurses a compensation package that includes competitive across-the-board increases of at least 3 percent and a competitive paid maternal/parental leave program that includes six weeks of paid leave for physiological recovery from birth of a child and six weeks of paid parental leave to employees after a birth, adoption or foster care and guardianship,” she said. “(The nurses union) cites safe staffing as one of its most important bargaining issues. In August, Michigan Medicine was ranked No. 5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. These honor roll rankings are achieved in part by our excellent nurse-to-patient ratios. Our ratios are in the top 2 percent of all hospitals in the country. We accomplished this without any contractual requirement to do so because excellent nurse staffing supports excellent patient outcomes. We remain committed to providing this level of staffing.
“If any of our nurses go out on strike, their absences may put patient safety at serious risk. Strikes are illegal for public employees in the state of Michigan. If an employee goes on strike, the employee is not paid for the time out on strike.”
David Jesse | Source: Detroit Free Press