Michigan Medicine Nurses Union Announces ‘Work Stoppage’ Authorization Vote

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The union representing 6,200 nurses at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, Mich., announced Thursday that it is holding a “work stoppage authorization vote” in a series of special meetings to be held between Aug. 27 and September 2nd.

The nurses and their supporters were told of the planned vote during a town hall speech Thursday night at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union hall in Ann Arbor. In addition to nurses, transit workers, electricians and other qualified union members were present.

The speaking event included speeches by union bureaucrats, such as former UAW international president Bob King, and state lawmakers from the Democratic Party, including Michigan State Rep. , Yousef Rabhi, and State Senator Jeff Mirwin, all of whom told the nurses that they “have your back.” ”

Hundreds of Michigan Medicine nurses and their supporters participated in an information picket at hospital facilities in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday, July 16, 2022, to demand an end to the staffing shortage and a new contract that expired June 30.

A statement posted on the Michigan Nurses Association-University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (MNA-UMPNC) website said the vote was a response “to disrespectful and inappropriate actions by management” and called on nurses “to vote on the authorization of a work stoppage in order to protest the university’s alleged unfair labor practices.

The union said the leave vote “will decide whether to stop work in protest of management’s unfair labor practices. These include, but are not limited to, accusations of bad faith bargaining, improper changes to our working conditions and the weakening of our elected union. The MNA-UMPNC also said it “alleges that this conduct is a violation of Michigan’s Public Employee Relations Act (PERA).”

The reference to ‘unfair labor practices’ demonstrates that the union has no intention of fighting for substantial wage increases, improved benefits or to alleviate the terrible working conditions of nurses, especially overwork. and lack of staff.

Under federal rules, an unfair labor practices strike is one in which the union does not raise any of the usual contract issues, but instead accuses management of failing to bargain in good faith. The union can call off the strike at any time, citing an agreement from UM management to resume negotiations, without any progress on the substance of the issues facing the nurses.

Thursday night’s public meeting also included statements from rank-and-file nurses who described dangerous and intolerable conditions at Michigan Medicine. An adult ER nurse said: ‘We are drowning, with no surface in sight. We need help. Now.”

A nurse who works in the NICU said: “I constantly have nightmares and sleepless nights, because my stress and anxiety about missing something or forgetting something because I was so busy on my shift. work weighs on me daily.”

The announcement by the MNA-UMPNC that it will hold the authorization vote is clearly in response to growing demands for action from Michigan Medicine nurses. After the MNA-UMPNC let the previous contract expire almost 50 days ago and refused to prepare or call for a strike vote, nurses’ growing anger and determination to tackle the staffing shortage have forced the union to take this step.

However, nurses should be warned that the union bureaucracy is using voting as a pressure tactic and doing everything possible to reach a sell-out deal with Michigan Medicine before a strike can be called. That’s clear by the way voting begins more than a week from now and then stretches into Labor Day weekend.

Meanwhile, if a strike does occur, the union will attempt to isolate the nurses from other Michigan Medicine employees as well as health care workers across the state of Michigan who face exactly the same struggles. Everything the union has done so far, including hiding from the nurses what was going on in the negotiations and refusing to prepare for the strike, proves that the union leadership is not on the same side as the nurses in this fight. .

For example, even the language of a “work stoppage” instead of a “strike”, as well as MNA-UMPNC’s legal filings with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) and Michigan Court of Claims stating that the hospital is engaged in “unfair labor practices” – even if this is absolutely true – shows that the union is seeking to prevent the nurses’ struggle from taking on the necessary political character that will be needed to win a victory.

The reason the MNA-UMPNC has invited union bureaucrats like Bob King and Democratic Party politicians to address Thursday’s meeting is because they hope to strangle and end any mass struggle that is emerging in the coming weeks against the management of the University of Michigan, themselves predominantly Democrats. , and the hospital. The labor apparatus fears a long struggle by nurses and hospital workers against Michigan Medicine could disrupt their campaign for the re-election of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other top Democratic state officials.

The union’s MERC filing revealed that the hospital’s bargaining position, as of May 9, was that staffing ratios are not a “mandatory” bargaining issue because they do not relate to the “safety of employees”. This is an outrageous example of the attitude of hospital management towards nurses. There is no doubt that a walkout by Michigan Medicine nurses will be met with a fierce response from the entire corporate and political establishment serving the MNA-UMPNC union bureaucracy.

Nurses must begin now to prepare for this struggle by organizing a rank-and-file committee that will take the leadership of Michigan’s anti-medicine struggle out of the hands of the union leadership. Such a committee must be democratically elected from the grassroots among the most trusted nurses, and it must present demands based on the needs of hospital employees and not on what management or the union deems feasible or possible.

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