University of Michigan nurses to march through Ann Arbor today
Wearing red and bearing signs, University of Michigan nurses will march today through the streets of Ann Arbor to the U-M Health System.
The protest marks the second march and picket for the 4,000-member union during a contested bargaining process stretching into its seventh month. Disagreements between the two sides involve overtime, paid time off, health insurance premiums and other areas. The nurses have been working without a contract since July.
The University of Michigan Health System said in a release this week that the march does not amount to a strike and will not impact patient care.
“Patients, visitors and staff do not need to worry about crossing picket lines,” the release states. “No attempts will be made to block traffic or entry-ways to facilities.''
Despite the march today, the two sides are trying to resolve their issues.
In September, the nurses union asked the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to initiate “fact finding.” That means each side will gather evidence in support of a favorable contract and then present it to the fact-finder at a formal hearing.
MERC appointed a mediator to help the sides resolve their differences in August. Unlike a mediator, a fact-finder will make a non-binding recommendation on a new contract.
“It’s an extension of the negotiations, and the negotiations can continue up to and during a fact-finding,” said Ruthanne Okum, the director of MERC.
Overall, the two sides have met more than 40 times over about six months.
Okum said the nurses union made the request to the state about a month ago; the state appointed a fact-finder last week. The hope is the process will be complete within three months, she said.
The march and picket will begin at 4:30 p.m. today at Liberty Plaza, 310 S. Division St., and end at U-M Hospital.
The union, the U-M Professional Nurse Council, is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO and a member of National Nurses United.