TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.—After an overwhelming vote of support this weekend, more than 1,000 nurses at Munson Medical Center have voted to ratify their first contract with the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA)—forming the Michigan Nurses Association Munson RNs—with support from the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest nurses union in the country.
The nurses led a massive community organizing campaign to help area residents better understand the impact of healthcare corporatization in their neighborhood, garnering the support of Traverse City’s mayor and a majority of patients who rely on the hospital and its staff for critical care. MNA helped organize a nearly $9 million medical-debt buyback effort, showcasing the important role unions can play in helping families recover, rebuild and start to pave a pathway to a better life.
The victory marks the largest organizing win in Michigan since right-to-work legislation was passed in the state in 2013, and union leaders expect that it’s likely to inspire further organizing across Michigan, and the healthcare sector. The contract with Munson provides for limits on forced overtime, safe staffing levels, and a fair wage scale to help recruit and retain high-quality registered nurses.
Dagmar Cunningham, who is a nurse at Munson Medical Center and was a member of the bargaining team, said:
“Forming a union with the Michigan Nurses Association was a life-changing decision. 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 said:
“This is a huge victory for the nurses at Munson, and more broadly for the people of northern Michigan, who rely on this hospital for high-quality frontline care for their families. 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 working people to find decent jobs in the healthcare sector, and harder for patients to access care without it bankrupting them.
“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.”