Nurses, hospital reflect on strike vote by nurses union

UPDATE — Wednesday, August 30, 2017 2:55 p.m. ET

Since April 18, nurses at UP Health System – Marquette and officials at Duke LifePoint have been negotiating a new contract. Tuesday night, nurses gave their elected bargaining team the green light to authorize a strike.

“It was a strong majority of the nurses who showed up and voted,” said Suzette Hantz, a Registered Nurse and Secretary of the MI Nurses Association.

“What is the tipping point for you guys to go on strike?”

“Well that all depends. That hasn’t been decided yet. We plan on going back to the table and hoping LifePoint will come back and work with us,” said Hantz.

Last week, the Michigan Nurses Association filed a report with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, citing hundreds of unsafe patient care incidents that have occurred at the hospital since January first. Nurses say those incidents are due to short staffing, which is the main component of their bargaining talks with the hospital.

“They are out there. They know, we know and we just want them to come back to the table, work, and be serious about what we are looking for.”

Nurses at the hospital have been working without a contract now for other a month. If the bargaining team were to call a strike, by law, they have to give the hospital ten days notice before the strike actually takes place.

“Our top priority is the patients and being in the hospital,” said Hantz. “That’s what nurses want. They want to be there for the patients.”

The hospital did release a statement to ABC 10 about the nurse’s vote. Here’s their statement:

“The Michigan Nurses Association reportedly worked very hard to convince an undisclosed number of UP Health System ­ Marquette employees to vote in the affirmative in yesterday¹s strike authorization vote.

Notwithstanding the reported result of that vote, we are encouraged by the many employees who have expressed their opposition to this tactic by the MNA, and who are dismayed by the Union¹s recent public attacks that portray their hospital in such an inaccurate, inflammatory, and damaging light.

We presently are scheduled to negotiate with the MNA through the end of September, and we remain optimistic that those negotiations will eventually conclude with a collective bargaining agreement that meets the needs of all parties.

During this time, as always, you may rest assured that our first priority is the delivery of high quality, compassionate care to those we serve.”

-Victor Harrington, Regional Director, Marketing and Business Development, UP Health System

“They say they’re there for the patient, I would like them to show us that they’re there and they care,” said Hantz.

The two sides have four negotiation meetings scheduled in September.


UPDATE — Wednesday, August 30, 2017 9:55 a.m. ET

Officials with UP Health System – Marquette have released a statement concerning the nurses vote Tuesday to authorize a strike:

“The Michigan Nurses Association reportedly worked very hard to convince an undisclosed number of UP Health System ­ Marquette employees to vote in the affirmative in yesterday¹s strike authorization vote.

Notwithstanding the reported result of that vote, we are encouraged by the many employees who have expressed their opposition to this tactic by the MNA, and who are dismayed by the Union¹s recent public attacks that portray their hospital in such an inaccurate, inflammatory, and damaging light.

We presently are scheduled to negotiate with the MNA through the end of September, and we remain optimistic that those negotiations will eventually conclude with a collective bargaining agreement that meets the needs of all parties.

During this time, as always, you may rest assured that our first priority is the delivery of high quality, compassionate care to those we serve.”

-Victor Harrington, Regional Director, Marketing and Business Development, UP Health System


MARQUETTE — On Tuesday, nurses at UPHS Marquette voted to authorize their locally elected bargaining team to call a strike.

Nurses have been in contract negotiations with Duke LifePoint since April 18. RNs are seeking contract language to ensure staffing levels necessary for patient safety. The two-month contract extension they negotiated with Duke LifePoint in late May lapsed on July 28 after management failed to address staffing concerns. Nurses are currently working without a contract, and continue to bargain in good faith with hospital administration.

This authorization sends a strong message to Duke LifePoint and UPHS Marquette management. If the hospital fails to address outstanding patient safety concerns and other issues, nurses at the hospital now have the option of striking.

By law, nurses are required to give the hospital notice 10 days in advance before any planned strike action is carried out.

“Striking is not a decision that nurses consider lightly. As dedicated professionals, however, we cannot stand by in good conscience and allow these dangerous conditions to persist,” said Scott Balko, RN and President of the UPHS Marquette RN Staff Council/MNA. “A strike can still be avoided if our patient safety concerns are addressed. We call on Duke LifePoint to honor their commitment to our community and our patients. That means agreeing to a contract that guarantees safe staffing levels and a workplace that will attract and retain high quality nurses in the years to come.”