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U of M nurses voting on work stoppage

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Nearly six thousand nurses at the University of Michigan are voting on a possible work stoppage.

The nurses’ union contract with the university health systemexpired over the summer.

“We hope that the university will see that we’re serious and they’ll sit down and bargain with us before we even call for an actual work stoppage,” says Katie Oppenheim, chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council Union.

Voting on the possible work stoppage is set to continue through next Sunday. There's no specific date set for when a three-day work stoppage may take place.

The university says a nurses strike may put patient safety at risk. 

The two sides have been negotiating for months, though the nurses’ union contends hospital officials are spending less time at the bargaining table.

The university issued the following statement on the current state of the contract talks:

Michigan Medicine has offered the nurses a compensation package that includes competitive across-the-board increases of at least 3 percent and a competitive paid maternal/parental leave program that includes six weeks of paid leave for physiological recovery from birth of a child and six weeks of paid parental leave to employees after a birth, adoption or foster care and guardianship.

Tuesday, the union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Detroit, seeking an immediate injunction to uphold their First Amendment rights to free expression on the job. The lawsuit alleges 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.

Spokeswoman Mary Masson says hospital officials are confident their actions are “consistent with the First Amendment” and they will “vigorously” defend the university against the lawsuit. Masson accuses the union of trying to “bring labor negotiations into patient care areas.” 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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