Hospital and nurse negotiation continues after strike authorization vote

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Tuesday night, the Michigan Nurse Association voted to give their locally elected bargaining board the authority to call a strike if they feel it is necessary.

“We had an overwhelming majority of our members come forward and say this matters to me," said Stephanie DePetro, the chief grievance steward for the RN Staff Council. "They ultimately decided to give us, the bargaining team, authority to call the strike if need be.”

In response to last night's vote, Duke Life Point has given a statement Wednesday morning saying:

"The Michigan Nurses Association reportedly worked very hard to convince an undisclosed number of UP Health System – Marquette employees to vote in the affirmative in yesterday’s strike authorization vote.

Notwithstanding the reported result of that vote, we are encouraged by the many employees who have expressed their opposition to this tactic by the MNA, and who are dismayed by the Union’s recent public attacks that portray their hospital in such an inaccurate, inflammatory, and damaging light.

We presently are scheduled to negotiate with the MNA through the end of September, and we remain optimistic that those negotiations will eventually conclude with a collective bargaining agreement that meets the needs of all parties.

During this time, as always, you may rest assured that our first priority is the delivery of high quality, compassionate care to those we serve."

The MNA has commented they are not allowed to release the exact number of votes in favor they received last night. With this new authority to call a strike, the bargaining board is stressing a strike is their last resort.

"The union has no interest in having a strike," said Scott Balko, the local union president for the RN Staff Council. "We don’t like being pushed in this corner, but at the pace things have been moving and the sort of temperament that’s been shown at the table, we feel we have been pushed in this direction."

By law, if a strike were to be called, the nurses would have to give the hospital 10 days notice.

"Hopefully they will come back to the table within that 10 days and work seriously with us," said Suzette Hantz, the local union secretary.

UP Health System Marquette and the MNA began contract negotiation meetings back in April. Despite little progress over the four months, both parties hope to conclude negotiations and come to an agreement in September. The nurses association say they will use these bargaining meetings to base whether or not a strike is necessary.

"We have four times in the entire month of September that the hospital has agreed to meet with us and we will base our judgement off of what we see what happens with our proposals that are on the table," said DePetro.

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