Thousands of University of Michigan nurses to vote on potential strike



A vote is underway to decide whether University of Michigan Health nurses will authorize their union to call for a strike.


The Michigan Nurses Association says unfair labor practices have pushed health workers to the brink.


The future is in the hands of about 6,200 registered nurses at University of Michigan health.


If a majority vote yes, their elected bargaining team of fellow nurses will have the authority to call a strike.


"The nurses are rallying and saying stop understaffing us, patients deserve better, we deserve better," said Renee Curtis, RN, MNA-UMPNC president


Curtis says the current workloads are unsustainable and are impacting patient care.


"We are the University of Michigan," said Curtis. "People come to us from all over the state and from other states for a specific care."


"We are the brightest and the best in a lot of ways," she added.


Curtis says U of M Health is not protecting some of its most important assets.


The MNA filed a lawsuit against the university earlier this month for refusing to bargain over nurses’ workloads in its contract negotiations.


"We have the right legally to have conversations across the workload of nurses and they have refused to engage in those conversations," said Curtis.


In a statement the University of Michigan Health said in part: "To date, we have made tremendous progress together, and we are disappointed that the UM professional nurses council plans to hold a vote on a work stoppage rather than working to achieve a positive result for our nurses at the bargaining table."


Curtis says holding a vote on a potential work stoppage is something they take very seriously.


She also says it’s unfortunate that they've been pushed to this point.


While morale in the workplace is low, dozens showed up for the first day of voting.


"This is our cry; this is bigger than everything and this is not only our issue, but I see it throughout the state and the nation," said Curtis.


Health policy expert, Dr. Christopher Freise at U of M, listed several solutions to the nursing crisis in his entry in the New England Journal of Medicine, including banning mandatory overtime and implementing mandatory patient-to-nurse ratios.


"We need that change and we need that change now," said Curtis.


In the event that the strike is authorized, the university would get 10 days notice to prepare.


The last voting session will take place on September 2.