MNA Nurses Start Strike at MyMichigan Sault

U.P. RNs are demanding fair contract, fair treatment

Note: Video and photos of the strike are available at the link below

SAULT STE. MARIE, MI – Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) nurses at MyMichigan Medical Center Sault started their 5-day strike this morning, united in their demands for a fair contract that will ensure the community can recruit and retain enough nurses. The RNs are also protesting what they view as MyMichigan’s anti-union actions that seem intended to intimidate or retaliate against them for speaking out or participating in their union.

“This is our hospital, our community, and we’re striking to show MyMichigan executives in Midland that we won’t let them give the Soo second-class treatment,” said Audra Farnsworth, RN. “Their contract offer would only drive away more nurses, because we would have to pay hundreds of dollars for health insurance every month which would wipe out any raise. They just spent $10 million on a new computer system here and bought three other hospitals, but they refuse to work with us on a fair contract that will recruit and retain nurses in the Soo.”

The nurses voted unanimously last month to give their fellow nurses on the bargaining team the ability to call a strike if necessary. Nurses gave MyMichigan notice of the 5-day strike on April 3, after a 14th bargaining session failed to produce an agreement. The nurses have been working under a contract that expired Dec. 31.

The nurses argue they are underpaid compared with other MyMichigan and U.P. hospitals. Nurses say the hospital is frequently short-staffed because MyMichigan Sault pays so little compared to other hospitals. MyMichigan’s offers so far add hundreds of dollars in healthcare costs each month for nurses and include other concessions that erode proposed raises.

MNA has filed multiple unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the nurses, alleging that MyMichigan:

  • Tried to coerce the nurses into quitting their union;
  • Illegally surveilled nurses at their informational picket on March 12, assigning an excessive number of security guards who stood watching them in hospital doorways and continuously circled the event in a van;
  • Is bargaining in bad faith by (a) failing to adhere to status quo terms and conditions regarding nurses’ pay during bargaining and (b) refusing to provide information the union needs for negotiations;
  • Illegally threatened and retaliated against the union president for bringing an unfair labor practice charge by serving her a subpoena for her personal phone and all correspondence between her and federal investigators.

After a previous federal investigation, the hospital was forced to post a settlement saying it would not illegally create the impression of surveilling RNs and would not illegally discipline nurses. This was related to the hospital’s suspension of the union president for engaging in protected union activities.

“Nurses have built a union here that’s stronger than ever and we are not intimidated by MyMichigan’s strong-arm tactics,” said Jillian LeBlanc, RN. “It’s disappointing that MyMichigan executives are choosing to treat us this way. We are the local nurses who put our hearts into taking care of people in and day out. This strike is not just about us – we are fighting for the future of our community and the survival of the hospital that we all count on for care.”

Another bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday (April 18), and the MNA nurses have offered to bargain every day during the strike. About 120 nurses work at the hospital.

The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest union and professional association for registered nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan. MNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO.
Video and photos of the strike are available here.
Contact: Dawn Kettinger; 517-721-9688 (cell)
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