Kalamazoo, MI – Nurses at Ascension Borgess Hospital announced today that unless a tentative agreement for a new contract is reached soon, they will be holding a strike authorization vote. Negotiations between nurses and Ascension’s administration are scheduled to resume on Thursday, December 1. RNs say that if a deal is not reached by the end of the week, they will hold a strike authorization vote next Monday, December 5 and Tuesday, December 6.
“We are exhausted. We are fed up. We are done watching our rights be taken away by corporate executives,” said Lori Batzloff, a nurse at Ascension and the president of the local Michigan Nurses Association (MNA). “It’s time for this company to respect its employees and for patients to come before profits. While we are hopeful that negotiations will go well on Thursday, it is important for us to let Ascension know that nurses are prepared to do what it takes.”
During a strike authorization vote, nurses would be voting on whether to empower their bargaining team to call for a strike. A 10-day notice would be given before the beginning of a strike. The bargaining team is made up of nurses who are democratically elected by MNA members at the hospital to represent them in negotiations with Ascension executives.
Nurses say that they are particularly concerned by a series of concessions that Ascension is demanding, including:
- A new requirement forcing nurses to work every other weekend;
- Cuts to retirement benefits that could cost nurses $30,000 or more;
- Eliminating the right to family or medical leave for part-time nurses and replacing all leave guarantees with policies Ascension’s administration could change at any time.
Additionally, nurses say that despite the raises in the first year of the contract, the wages proposed by Ascension in the following two years fail to include a cost-of-living-adjustment, which could lead to staffing shortages once again. “It is so sad to see the way in which these corporate executives have made healthcare about the bottom line instead of the patients,” said Jenni Livingston, a nurse at Ascension Borgess and member of the bargaining team. “We need our next contract to move us forward, not dig us even deeper in the hole.”
The most recently available tax filings from Ascension indicate that the health care corporation has multiple executives who make over a million dollars each year. Additionally, nurses allege that the health system has engaged in a pattern of unlawful behavior. The National Labor Relations Board, a federal government agency, has already issued two complaints against Ascension Borgess Hospital for their labor practices and is investigating a third. Nurses say that their strike vote would be in part to protest this behavior.
Nurses have been working under an expired contract since November 11.
The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest and most effective union for nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan, representing approximately 13,000 members across the state. MNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO.
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Contact: Amelia Dornbush, 517-896-7478