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Two weeks after Michigan Medicine nurses voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against unfair labor practices (ULP), the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) affiliate, the University Council of Professional Nurses of Michigan (UMPNC), redoubled its efforts to avoid a strike.
It comes as 15,000 Minnesota nurses go on a three-day strike, 2,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health workers enter the fifth week of an open-ended strike and 2,600 University of Wisconsin Health nurses in Madison begin a three-day strike. strike. In New South Wales, Australia, 50,000 nurses went on strike earlier this month.
In all these struggles, the question of staff security and workload is central, as well as that of remuneration, which has been swallowed up by inflation.
In a series of MNA-UMPNC “negotiation briefings” held on Friday, September 9, no mention was made of these struggles by union officials. Instead, the union used the meeting to push back against nurses’ growing demands for a walkout, telling them to trust ongoing negotiations with Michigan Medicine. MNA-UMPNC President Renee Curtis said, “If we can negotiate and work out this contract at the table, that’s the goal.”
The nurses have been working without a contract since June 31.
Curtis told nurses she met with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office as well as ‘other political influencers’, including ‘a philanthropist who has poured millions into the hospital to get their names on hospitals.
More than 4,000 of the 6,200 nurses in the bargaining unit showed up for the vote to authorize the strike, and 96% voted “yes”. That was over two weeks ago.
During a distribution of the WSWS Health Care Worker Newsletter last week, a nurse said, “We should strike, we voted for a strike, let’s do it!” They will give in. They cannot function without us. What are they going to do without 6,000 nurses?
Another nurse said: “I have heard of scabs [being hired by Michigan Medicine]. I think they should strike to get what they need.
During briefings, the MNA-UMPNC was forced to acknowledge the pro-strike sentiment among nurses. While Curtis said her inbox was flooded with messages calling for an immediate walkout, she said again and again that nurses should “be patient.”
She talked about “using leverage” and concluded, “We want the university to do the right thing.”
She did not explain how blocking a strike as Michigan Medicine, backed by Whitmer and the Democratic-controlled university’s Board of Regents, hired strikebreakers, increased the “influence” of nurses. These are evasions and lies. Michigan Medicine continues to refuse to even discuss the critical issues of patient-nurse ratios and understaffing.
During one of the briefings, Curtis acknowledged, “The newest and biggest issue is actually the refusal to negotiate on safe workloads.”
A nurse from the emergency department (ED) asked, “Is anyone planning to help us and our boarding school?” [holding a patient in the ED until there is a space for them to be admitted into the hospital] problems, or will we continue to ignore them? »
Curtis responded by blaming the nurses saying, “You all need to get up. I can’t carry the cross for you guys. You will have to carry the cross.
Another nurse replied, “I feel like I’m being scolded a bit. While I know that in my work unit time and time again we put in place ADOs [assignment despite objection forms]like one after another, and it felt like there was no result or no light at the end of the tunnel.
Curtis replied, “We need you to be seen and heard in our community and at the hospital.” In other words, more innocuous protests. The union’s next diversionary activity is for the nurses to attend and protest again at the university’s next board meeting on September 22.
Nurses can increase their influence and prepare for the inevitable struggle not only against the university but also against the Democratic Lansing administration by immediately contacting struggling nurses across the country and forging a fighting unity with them and with other sections of the working class. auto workers, railroad workers, logistics workers – facing soaring inflation, falling real wages and intolerable working hours.
The MNA and the UMPNC, like the unions in general, work to suppress the class struggle in the interest of the business elite and its two political parties, in particular the Democrats. All the more so in the midst of critical midterm elections and a historic crisis of the entire American political system.
The only way for nurses to advance their fight and unite with the strikes already underway in Minnesota, California and Wisconsin is to take the conduct of the contract fight out of the hands of the union apparatus and hand it over to at the base – and -folder.
The Michigan Medicine Rank-and-File Committee was created to provide nurses with a means to fight for a winning strategy that will break union backstabbing policies. Every day that the MNA-UMPNC avoids a strike is another day of revenue for the hospital and another day that they have to prepare replacement nurses as strikebreakers.
The Michigan Medicine Rank-and-File Committee exists to unite nurses and other hospital employees in common action, and through the International Workers Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees (IWA-RFC) , uniting them with nurses and hospital workers who come into struggle throughout the United States and internationally.