Registered nurses at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich., represented by the Michigan Nurses Association, voted overwhelmingly on March 24 to ratify their first contract, which they say puts patients first. The three-year agreement that covers over 1,000 nurses limits forced overtime, provides nurses a formal structure to address nurse-staffing levels and implements new workplace safety procedures that will benefit patients. They also won a 13 percent raise over the life of the contract, which will help to recruit and retain high-quality nurses.
“This is a huge achievement, not just for us, but for our community as a whole,” says registered nurse James Walker. “We formed a union so that we could make sure our patients always come first. By winning language that protects safe staffing and limits the use of forced overtime, we are excited to have taken a major step toward this goal.”
Throughout the campaign, nurses and community members worked together to advocate for a fair contract. The nurses showed their care—beyond the bedside—last December by purchasing and forgiving $8.9 million worth of medical debt for over 9,200 individuals and families in their surrounding communities.
“We want to thank our neighbors who supported us as we advocated to make our hospital a better place. Every yard sign made a difference,” says registered nurse Cindy Rydahl. “Together, we can make sure that patients always come before profits in our community.”
“Forming a union with the Michigan Nurses Association was a life-changing decision,” says registered nurse Dagmar Cunningham. “Because we now have a collective voice, we are able to advocate for our patients, our colleagues and ourselves. We are so grateful to all of our neighbors and community members who supported us throughout this process, including our union brothers and sisters at the American Federation of Teachers.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten calls the contract a huge victory for both the nurses and their community. “Across this country, families are struggling to secure healthcare, pay medical bills and be able to afford their prescriptions. At the same time, wealthy corporate interests are buying up hospitals and making it harder for patients to access care without it bankrupting them,” she says. “The nurses at Munson turned this around—first by reaching out to the Munson community. In doing so, these nurses were able to regain some power over their lives, make connections with each other, and harness their individual power to create something bigger for themselves and the patients they care for.”
“As healthcare systems become more corporate, nurses want to make sure that administrators prioritize patient care over the bottom line,” says Jamie Brown, MNA president. “Nurses are in unions all across Michigan because we know that together we can make sure that patients come before profits.”
[Adrienne Coles, Michigan Nurses Association]