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Lapeer nurses vote to authorize strike if contract agreement isn't reached

Emergency room hospital
McLaren Lapeer Region nurses want administrators to commit to increasing staffing levels in their contract. So far, administrators haven't budged.

After 15 months of bargaining, nurses at McLaren Lapeer Region hospital voted yesterday to give their leaders the ability to authorize a strike.

Hospital administrators had previously given the McLaren Lapeer RN Staff Council bargaining team their “last, best, and final offer.” According to union president Tom Hall, this meant the group had to bring the offer back to their members for a vote, regardless of whether the bargaining team agreed with it.

Union members voted the contract proposal down.

So the groups went back to the table again. Hall says that in their next proposal, hospital administrators did offer more in wages for the nurses, but union members still voted not to pass the contract. Hall says the most important issue for members is staffing— and on that front, administrators aren’t budging.

“They’re saying they don’t want to put into the contract any more nurses, basically,” he told Michigan Radio.

According to a hospital spokesperson, 230 nurses are currently employed by McLaren Lapeer. Hall said his members have been asking for higher nurse-to-patient ratios, but administrators haven’t told them why they’re unwilling to ensure that.

After voting “no” on the second contract proposal, union members voted to authorize a possible strike. No date for the strike has been set. It’s still being viewed as a last-resort option.

But, Hall said, “We don't have any more bargaining chips.”

In a statement sent to Michigan Radio, McLaren Lapeer CEO Chris Candela expressed his frustration with the situation.  

“Just four weeks ago we reached a tentative agreement in good faith with the Michigan Nurses Association to settle negotiations after more than 12 months. Union leadership assured the hospital’s bargaining committee that it would recommend nurses vote to ratify the agreement… We are disappointed that the union is inaccurately representing our staffing situation to gain leverage for bargaining.”

However, Hall says membership has spoken— and they’re not settling.

Bargaining will resume on Friday. Both groups have expressed their desire to reach an agreement soon.

“I think that they see that the nurses are not happy, and I think that’ll give them a little more ambition hopefully to come to the table with a better offer,” Hall said.

In the event of a strike, nurses from an outside agency would likely be brought into the hospital so patient care isn’t interrupted.

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
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