For Immediate Release
Contact: Roger Kerson; 734.645.0535
Federal lawsuit, filed today, seeks injunction to stop ongoing violation of First Amendment rights
(Ann Arbor, MI) The University of Michigan is breaking both state and federal law by repeatedly violating the workplace rights of employees, say members of the University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council (UMPNC) in legal actions before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission and in federal court.
The University operates the top-ranked Michigan Medicine health system thanks to the professionalism and dedication of more than 5,700 nurses. Members of UMPNC, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, are voting this week to consider a work stoppage in protest of ongoing and continuous unfair labor practices at UM hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities.
In addition, UMPNC members filed a lawsuit in federal court in Detroit today, seeking an immediate injunction to uphold their First Amendment rights to free expression on the job.
“Our nurse bargaining team believes it is time to hold management accountable for bad faith bargaining, making changes to our working conditions without any negotiations and discriminating against RNs for exercising our right to free speech,” said Megan Duncan, RN, a nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital and a UMPNC member.
University officials, including Dr. David Spahlinger, president of the University of Michigan Health System, have stated in an email to nurses and in comments to media organizations that they are “committed to maintaining current staffing levels.” During contract negotiations, however, University administrators refused make any such commitment in writing, directly contradicting their communications to union members and the public.
UMPNC members have filed four unfair labor practice charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to challenge actions by University administrators as illegal. The charges state that University officials are violating Michigan labor law, including failure to bargain in good faith; making changes in work shifts without notifying or negotiating with the union; refusing to bargain in good faith over terms and conditions of employment; and discriminating against union members who are engaged in legally protected speech in support of their right to collective bargaining.
The federal lawsuit, filed in U.S District Court in Detroit today, states that University officials are violating the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting nurses from exercising their right to free speech as expressed on t-shirts, buttons and through other means in the workplace.
“Time and again, University administrators have shown blatant disregard and disrespect for the rights of nurses,” said John Karebian, executive director of the Michigan Nurses Association. “Anyone who thinks our members can be scared into silence doesn’t know much about nurses or the nursing profession.”
Nurses have been threatened with discipline for wearing apparel which supports their union. By selectively enforcing an overbroad and vague dress code, the University is restricting speech based on its message, which is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
Voting to consider authorizing a work stoppage in protest of unfair labor practices, which began on Monday, will continue through September 16.
The University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council is an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA). MNA is the largest, most effective union for registered nurses in Michigan, advocating for nurses and their patients at the State Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table.