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Posted on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

University of Michigan nurses union says members support picket

By Juliana Keeping

Members of the University of Michigan nurses union expressed support for an informational picket at a membership meeting called Tuesday to discuss a stalled and contested contract negotiation, according to a statement released by union representatives.

Bargaining talks between the nurses and the University of Michigan Health System were halted July 9 after the 4,000-member union and their employer failed to hash out a new contract.

Some nurses are donning buttons and wearing red at work to support the union. An informational picket is planned for Aug. 13, though talks will resume Aug. 3, officials from the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council said this week.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Nurses Association declined to say how an informational picket would be carried out.

“It’s an opportunity for people to share information about their concerns, in this case, the ability for the U-M nurses to have a contract that both covers quality patient care and respects the practice and experience of the nurses," said Ann Kettering Sincox, a spokesperson for the MNA, via e-mail on Monday. The MNA is representing U-M nurses during the bargaining process.

Bargaining talks between the nurses and their employer started in April. The 2008 contract expired July 1, though the nurses continue to work under it.

A key sticking point is U-M's request that nurses pay up to 30 percent toward their health insurance premium, the MNA says. It did not provide information on what nurses pay now.

Shifting more healthcare costs to employees is a university-wide initiative that began in 2010.

Since then, U-M's non-union employees have been phased into a two-year plan under which they’ll pay higher percentage toward health benefits, said Rick Fitzgerald, U-M spokesperson.

Under the new cost-share ratio, U-M’s aggregate contribution toward health care of its employees, retirees and dependents is 70 percent, while the U-M affiliate contributes the remaining 30 percent. It previously paid an aggregate contribution of 80 percent, while employees paid 20 percent.

U-M’s been working to implement the same cost-sharing formula for its unionized employees as contracts for its 10 bargaining units expire, Fitzgerald said.

Members of the nurses union are saying they're against the proposed change to health insurance and other benefits, taking issue with some administrators’ double-digit salary increases and the amount invested in new buildings, such as the new children and women’s hospital scheduled to open in November.

The new building and a new charting system will strain UMHS finances, pushing the budget into the red by $23.5 million in the fiscal year that began July 1.

U-M employees 41,537 people among its three campus and the 21,271-employee health system. Typically, around 70 percent of U-M’s costs are tied to human resources.

The nurses say concessions will make it difficult to recruit top-notch staff, thus harming patient care, according to the statement.

“This is a message about the standard of care we deliver, the type of specialty care patients need,” said Peter Fedor, a U-M nurse and a member of the bargaining team, in an e-mailed statement. “We are not willing to give up what we already have. People who are getting double digit wage increases don’t have the right to paint a picture of substandard care for us.”

The union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO and a member of National Nurses United.

UMHS declined to comment on specific points of negotiation, but said in a statement Tuesday it looked forward to resuming talks Aug. 3.

Members of the union include staff nurses and advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives. The average UMHS staff nurse's pay rate is $33.74 per hour or $70,179 annually, according to the health system. The median pay is $$33.92 hourly or 70,553.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 1:53 a.m.

Can I just please say that "average" doesnt mean majority. When looking at our salaries that are posted online I think people see them and think OMG the nurses make that much money. The problem with this is that they post the salary of a nurse who would be working a full 40 hour week. And it does not take into consideration that some only work part time and ALOT work 36 hours a week. 4 hours doesnt seem like much but it adds up and does take a bite out of that posted salary. Also please know this is NOT solely about money. We are trying to retain the benefits we have and that is all. We want to keep our retirement it is wonderful and everyone at the U will tell you this is a huge draw to get people to work at the U. We do want to be able to use incremental PTO b/c planning your schedule a month and a half in advance and having a family or other obligations isn't always easy. And taking this away will increase call ins and increase pt/nurse ratios, leading to errors and a higher burnout rate when you are forced to work short staffed and OT. They want to take away float pay for going to other units and helping when they are short staffed. If you have no incentive what is going to make you want to come in on your day off and help. Just a few things that they brought to the table and said get rid of these things or we wont talk to you. So is it really just the nurses who are throwing the temper tantrums and acting like babies. NO they came and wanted to take take take and we said NO plain and simple

Edith Hoag-Godsey

Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 3:59 a.m.

I second that- this is NOT about just money. It is about decreasing or eliminating incentives to come in and staff on days off, weekends off, holidays off, etc. They want to mandate people over their 12 hour shifts (16 hours) and NOT pay overtime for that last 4 extra hours. Not to mention that forcing someone to work 16 hours drastically increases the amount of medical errors and leads to decreased patient safety. This is about us wanting fair compensation for what we do as professionals, but this is also about YOU, Ann Arbor and Michigan residents, and all of those who come from around the country and WORLD for our specialty centers (transplants, ECMO, and LVAD placements, to name a few). This is about patient care and safety, too. We want to give our entire attention, and the very best of ourselves, to our patients. We can't do that if we are understaffed and overworked.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

@ Goober (sorry, yet again): Why are "we little people" fighting each other? Why do you see nurses continuing to work for the same amount, rather than less, as taking directly from you? All this, when the wealthiest 1% of the U.S. population controls 1/3 the wealth of the country? It seems counterproductive.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

@ Goober: First, thanks for recognizing the "professional" status of nursing. Secondly, there is no "nurse union hall." I'll skip over most of your other comments, since you can't have imagined they'd be taken seriously...but you are correct, in saying that nurses might offer some excellent input into ways to spend less on healthcare. There are some very, very difficult decisions to be made, along those lines, howerver, and so far, no one has wanted to face them. (I suppose it is not very "mature" of me, to point this out, but I will feel better, given your demeaning remarks, to note that in your last sentence, you used the incorrect pronoun: It should read "We little people....")


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 12:16 a.m.

@ cobrall: As a U-M nurse, who also has worked in non-nursing jobs at the U, one of my "gripes" with the UMPNC union is that they have given up, in the past, benefits that other U-M employees (lab techs, managers, etc.) retained. (For example, dependent care days, Yule days, sick days, etc. were given up and traded for substantially fewer days of paid time off along with the dubious "right" to call in for a shift without specifiying why you were calling in-- a "right" that disappeared with the following contract negotiation.) I will not, as a nurse, have healthcare benefits following my retirement, despite spending decades caring for sick people. My monthly contribution toward healthcare insurance for my family is over $500, and my income last year was in the area of $35,000. Nobody is getting rich, or getting any special deals, working as a nurse at the University of Michigan. (I only wish!) The unsustainable rise of healthcare costs is a huge problem with which this society needs to wrestle, but in this particular case, we are talking about the University of Michigan, not General Motors, and we are talking about nurses paying more than other employees of the University for their healthcare, which is a ridiculous irony. The other direction this is going, with hospital proposals for these negotiations, is removing financial incentives for working overtime or "over appointment." A logical consequence of this will be increased mandated over-time, to cover gaps in staffing. I know that AT&T and other organizations are taking this approach to cutting costs, but lives are literally on the line, when you start mandating nurses at the end of their shifts (which, as someone else noted, already are quite often 12 hours in length).


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

I am a nurse, and, unfortunately, a frequent recipient of health care services. I wouldn't agree with the comment, "Leave the patients out of it," particularly at a "learning hospital," like UMHS. Every July, new medical school graduates enter the ranks at the University Hospital, and it is up to experienced, well-educated nurses to advocate for their patients, in cases where new graduates have not received adequate preparation for dealing with particular urgent or critical situations. U-M nurses need to be well-informed and involved in a team approach to care. Nurses need to possess a wide variety of skills,among them, astute physical assessment skills, the ability to use and troubleshoot advanced medical equipment, excellent interpersonal skills, and a wide knowledge of medications, including side-effects, and appropriate doses. Very high ethical standards are of course assumed. There can be be no arguing with the adage that "you get what you pay for." Recently, an excellent nurse with whom I worked left the U, to work at a much smaller hospital in the Flint area, where her pay was substantially higher, and her monthly contribution for healthcare benefits less by more than a hundred dollars. The nurses at the University like the challenges of working in a University setting. The U-M itself likes to come out ahead in comparisons (such as "US News and World Report's" hospital rankings) to other healthcare facilities; it needs to back up its claims to fame with talent and service that far exceed the commonplace. I would not argue the point that some powerful unions have, at times, abused their power, and perhaps sheltered and protected ineffective (or worse) employees. However, the UMPNC would definitely NOT be among them. In fact, I have, in the past, disagreed with how many concessions the union made to hospital administration, no with substantive (in my opinion) gains.

Edith Hoag-Godsey

Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 3:54 a.m.

It is very true that, especially in July, attending physicians, senior residents, and fellows rely on the nursing staff to "watch over" their new interns, and all of those orders from newbies coming in. We guide them and teach them and help them grow into their positions as residents. We correct their mistakes (many of them, at first!) and they come to US with their questions. SO many times I have been asked "well what would you do?" I know that most of the MDs in my ICU have nurse union buttons on, because without each other, there is NO patient care.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

Nurses make good money and they deserve it. However, there is no reason why they cannot pay the same percentage as I, a member of AFSCME, does. Beginning nurses make more than $50,000 a year. They get paid to not come into work. They get a annual $2,000 bonus. I have no doubt that they deserve it, but in the times we live in they have it great in comparison to other jobs at the university and indeed, throughout the state. That said, the university is being a bit disingenuous. They are claiming poverty when in fact they just publicized a profit margin of 2 percent. Once the one time expenses of the new Mott are paid off the university will be making money hand over fist.

Edith Hoag-Godsey

Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 3:51 a.m.

Yes we do get paid our regular straight time when we "call in" sick or get downstaffed due to low occupancy. HOWEVER, this time is taken straight out of our vacation time, which is considered part of our earnings. When you get to 0 in vacation time, whether or not you volunteered to stay home or called in, you cannot do so again without disciplinary action.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

Only midnight shift workers make the bonus of $2,000. Please don't make people think we all get that every year. What do you mean we get paid to not come into work? I am just curious. And honestly AFSCME should have said NO! And realized that once they take things away you NEVER get them back. I understand your being upset but again this is not a race to the bottom.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

I can see that we have many nurses or their representatives willing to review their position in a public forum. I see this as unfair negotiations. Public emotion and feelings have nothing to do with fair negotiations. To all nurses - as much as we did not like our benefits having to change where we are now paying more of our hard earned wages for the cost of health care, you have to admit that while you drive to retain your positions, this makes us pay more. This is not right. Get in sync with the rest of industry, then you have a base to build from.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 1:01 a.m.



Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 1:01 a.m.

I agree any group of workers can have ANY union that they want to have back them. NOONR had to sit back and take this YOU should have fought.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

Why should our base reflect yours? I do not wish to share your misery. You didn't fight for your benefits, did you? They were shoved down your throat and you took it. We don't need to race to the bottom to meet you. Not now, not ever. Stand up, be a man, fight for yourself. Elevate you life and join us at our base.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

The nursing staff at UM is nothing less than outstanding. My 87 year-old father has had numerous procedures and appointments in the last six months and the nurses have been caring, compassionate, and patient with him. Their dedication is amazing and their work is exhausting but they always do it with a smile. I have spoken with nurses who arrive extra early and park blocks away from campus to avoid paying the crazy parking fees. It always shocks me when people "attack" folks for wanting more money and/or benefits. Sucking it up and dealing, to me, is a crazy statement by people who don't or won't understand the entire story. An over $23 million deficit for the new hospitals is crazy. UM wants to be the "leaders and best" and now they are squawking at paying for. And yes, continue to pad the wallets of the upper echelon is ridiculous. Why aren't things like parking and benefits "charged" according to a sliding scare? The nursing staff deserves a fair and equitable agreement.

Edith Hoag-Godsey

Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 3:50 a.m.

Thanks so much G2inA2... it always feels great when someone walks away from our hospital having had a positive nursing experience. That's what we strive for every day!


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

They did make tiers for the insurance. The only bad thing is that ANYONE making over $53,000 and above pays the same amount. So me making $59,000 will pay the same as someone making $750,000. And yes someone at the U makes that much........ in a month they make what I make in a year and we pay the same


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

Once again, (and the Hospital Administration) quotes the median average salary for the UM RNs at over $70,000. Once again, fails to clarify that this number includes RN department managers, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioner, and other specialists (such as a certified midwife, etc.) who often make over $150,000. The mode average salary for a UM RN is $57,387.20. &quot;Mode average&quot; is a form of statistics that represents a data value that occurs most frequently. Here, this is the salary that most of the UM RNs make. It measures an average without letting the high and low extremes affect the outcome. also fails (again) to point out that very few (less than 20 out of 4,000) RN salaries are paid from the general fund (our tax dollars). Source: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Although, $70,000 or $50,000 sounds low to me, given that RN are exposed to HIV/AIDs, Hepitius, Influenza, etc. everday while executing life saving measures and increasing your quality of life and lifespan each day. The RNs provide the primary health care you receive at UMHS the majority of the time you are there. They earn every single penny they make, plus a lot more.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

More jobs Americans won't do, maybe they should hire illegals. I actually support the nurses in this way. They should hold out until the admin is forced to take a cut. I do not support a rise in medical costs to keep nurses benefits the same. The pains of increasing health care costs. Ironic that it is happening within the system.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

Hard to understand why the Hospital wants the RNs to take a pay cut when the CEO, the highest paid employee at the University of Michigan, received a 10% raise after she took the Hospital from running a profit to $23 million dollars in debt in just two years.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

I agree that the nurses should pay 30% of health care as all the others at UH, however, their salary should reflect this cost. Increase wages to cover that and more. What bothers me most is that paid time off is not budgeted in full on the hospital units/clinic, only 70% is budgeted.. How can you offer a benefit and then not budget for it?, then get upset when someone uses all of their benefit. If you don't want it used why did you give it????


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

Why are so many of you questioning our dissatisfaction of a potential pay cut? We are not being asked to give less of ourselves at work. With an increased cost of healthcare and a raise not sufficient to cover it, they want us to take just that. A PAY CUT. We are not asking for huge raises, we are simply asking for things to STAY THE SAME! Management is asking us to make concessions that they have not had to make. We are not better or worse than ANY employee at the hospital. We are ALL needed for the hospital to run smoothly. No one should have had to increase their cost of healthcare, it is unfortunate that they were able to force that on you. However, thinking that the nurses should just because YOU did is an oppressive way to look at things. The fact is that this hospital is MAKING huge profits, and they have NO RIGHT to be asking for us to share the burden of the cost of the new hospital when they don't want to share the profits on the years that they have been in the black. We ALL earn the Top Hospital rating, not just the nurses. We should be helping each other in a race to the top, not a race to the bottom...


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

&quot;No one should have had to increase their cost of healthcare&quot; I like your post, except for this. The cost of health care has exploded in the last three decades partially due to extraordinary advances in technology and research that is having beneficial results. But benefit plans designed three decades ago were not as costly as they have become. If an employer offers a 70%/30% split, that is very generous. But what you also point out irks me the most. The hosp it asking for way too much while so many there are paid like they are royalty and those folks do not seem to be giving up much. Funny isn't it that those who can afford it the most will not take the same hit?


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

Patients are admitted to the hospital for 24-hour nursing care. Your physician -- or, really, your resident -- will see you for five or ten minutes twice a day. Your nurse is there with you. Nursing care is not following orders. We are a separate discipline with a separate role complementary to medicine, our own body of research and our own expertise. Nursing care is not billable simply because of a quirk of health care reform in the early1980s, not because our value is less. PT, OT, radiology, imaging, nutrition -- all of them are billable services and their salaries are partially reimbursed by that fact. Nursing care is not reimbursed,so we are vulnerable to any budgetary woes of the hospital. That does not mean that our care is worth less than any other specialty, and it does not mean that the UMHS nurses deserve an effective pay cut.

Roger Roth

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

&quot;Shifting more healthcare costs to employees is a university-wide initiative that began in 2010.&quot; ------ Workers will ultimately work more for less, less in benefits and salary. This is the upward movement of wealth from workers to corporations and the wealthy. If middle class working people don't care about this, then we're in bigger trouble than I thought. If you're not enjoying a good health insurance benefit--by good, I mean 100% paid by the employer--and you find that acceptable for you, fine. I set my sights a little higher. I don't base my opinion about what wage or benefit I get on anything other than what I see as being morally right and fair. America is still the richest country in the world, probably 3X richer than the next. Workers made it that way. It's not workers who are now threatening our economic status. Workers have done everything right, everything expected of them, sacrificing at the request of their employers along the way. And, you want to penalize them. Shame, shame. P.S. In the richest country in the world, made rich by workers, everyone willing to work a full week should receive a quality living wage pinned to the standard of living along with full health and dental coverage, ample paid R&amp;R and a living pension in retirement, period. What are we, Neanderthals? Government for, of and by the people has to promote the same for its people as it does its corporations. We're not there yet. We got closer, however, when the SCOTUS &quot;deemed&quot; corporations to be &quot;individuals&quot; when donating $$$ to politicians. : b .


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

The nurses need to come to the land of Obama &amp; pay their fair share like all the rest of the U of M employees!!!!

David Paris

Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

Off Topic &amp; Completely False. Pres. Obama is not the issue here.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

Maybe you should have a union....... Just because it was forced down your throat doesn't make it right


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

Congratulations on being a contender of The Race to the Bottom! The bigwigs must love you! When they increased YOUR cost of healthcare, I'm sure it was without grumbling from you, and that you just chalked it up to &quot;paying your fair share&quot;. May I ask you where our &quot;fair share&quot; has been these last 14 years of the hospital finishing in the black?


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

Something to consider...The nature of nursing jobs includes 12 hour shifts, day and night shifts,and weekend work. Those choosing nurses as a career are well aware of these aspects of the job and most manage these obligations gracefully, as that is their chosen profession. Nurses are people as well and have families that need them games, dentist appointments, weddings, etc. I think the U saves a lot of money already by paying 12 hour nurses straight time only, rotating nurses from day to night shift thereby avoiding paying a night shift bonus because those nurses don't qualify,and by paying no extra for weekend work (unless you work every weekend, but apparently this is not allowed anymore). Basically, for your &quot;average&quot; staff nurse, an 8 hour day shift only position is seemingly unattainable until, from my experience, you have at least 20 years seniority. With the concession proposals of the new contract, I am concerned about patient care in relation to adequate staffing. Currently, nurses have the ability to find another nurse to cover their shift should a personal conflict arise, and that has been proposed to be taken away with the exception of twice per year. Working 12 hour shifts does not allow for any personal/family care whatsoever that day. Consider a nurse leaving home at 5:30 am to get to the parking lot by 6:15 to catch a bus to get to hospital to start report by 7am sharp, leaving at the end of the day at 7:45 (in sincere honesty most nurses stay over for 5-15 minutes and don't ask for OT pay), catching an bus to get to the parking lot by 8:10 ,and arriving home at approx 9pm. That is an absolute reality and I accept it proudly and am grateful for my job. However, it does require more personal sacrifice than many other types of employment. So, if monetary incentives are taken away to cover other nurses shifts, or to work additional weekends if needed, in my opinion it may be somewhat difficult at times to maintain good s


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 1:23 a.m.

And someone who works a 12 hours shift would have to work over four hours to ever get OT. They first have to hit 40 hours for the week before being paid OT


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

What they are trying to do is say you will no longer be paid OT if you work over your scheduled shift. We have never been paid OT for working 12 hours or 10 hours if that is your scheduled shift. We get straight time for the whole shift and I have never heard anyone complain about that since that is usually what you pick to work. What they are trying to do away with is if your shift is over and you volunteer to stay or they mandate you, you will not be paid OT for staying unless you work 40 hours in the week. You can't use any PTO whether for a doctors appointment or whatever. You can not go home early even if they are overstaffed b/c you will lose that OT from the previous shift. If it is a holiday week and you are paid for the holiday and work 4 hours over your scheduled shift you will not get OT b/c you didn't work the holiday. As far as the bussing I think we should ALL have an issue with that, of course all the higher ups and docs will still be allowed to park on campus


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

Again it would nice to remember the issue with parking is not just a nursing issue, but also an issue for everyone. I get up in the morning, drive to the stadium parking lot, wait for the bus, commute in, get off at the bus station and walk in. At the end of the, I too have to go to the bus stop and wait for the bus back to my car and drive home. Yes I am getting up earlier and getting home later. It is like that for me and many other employees at the hospital who are making a lot less than nurses. No one is offering them or me more pay for all the extra time spent commuting. It is a quality of life issue for everyone. Now I remember nurses asking for 10 and 12-hour shifts. If I remember the argument at the time, the change in time allowed for greater flexibility in work schedule and also allowed some nurses to work 3 or 4 days a week allowing them to stay home more. I still know nurses that would like 10-hour shift. They tell me it saves on childcare, cuts gas cost and time commuting. This change was made for greater job satisfaction and to improve quality of life of nurses. Now are we being ask to feel sorry for the nurses working 10 or 12-hour shifts?


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 7 p.m.

I am not aware of 12 hour shifts with no ot. Is that a negotiated shift? How many days a week? A friend of mine chooses to work at UMMC on 12 hour shifts but he only works three days a week practically full time. 36 hours is less than full time and the ability to work on three days/wk for what amounts to pretty much a full time job pay wise is a fairly nice benefit. So are you proposing that the hosp makes nurses work five 12 hour shifts with no OT? My problem with 12 hours shifts is that it could exhaust a nurse and result in poor patient care. But if I could get a job that had a three day 12 hr schedule, I would take it in a second, especially if could work the first three days one week and the last the next. Eight off days in a row, without using vacation time. That could be a huge benefit, not a burden for an employee.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

I agree. We are not just saying MORE MORE MORE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!! It is hard to manage your schedule that is made a month and a half in advance. When you need time off last minute finding someone to work for you is not always easy. And finding someone to do it for straight time is even harder. Taking away the benefit of incremental PTO will increase call ins and thus lead to higher pt/nurse ratio


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

good staffing.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

More &quot;crap&quot; is hitting the fans for the nurses, ruh oh!

worried patient

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

In the budget, nursing shows up as a line item number and due to the large number of nurses, this number always looks very high. I always find it interesting when people complain about nurses' salaries and propse cuts to them, as if experienced nurses are easy to find. These people obviously do not understand the workings of the hospital system or the responsibilities of nursing. There have been several studies done relating increased nursing to improved patient outcomes, and yet people want to cut nursing. As a patient, you don't see behind the scenes and the several tasks nurses are required to do. A nurse is not someone that is just paid to fluff your pillow and get you some juice. Your nurse's job is not just to carry out orders, but most importantly to monitor your response, both physically and mentally to your treatments ordered by your doctor. I don't recall ever seeing a physician sitting at the bedside making sure you are not reacting poorly to your treatments. Often, it is your nurse that picks up on subtle problems and addresses them before they become major problems. If you start cutting nursing salaries and benefits, you lose out on the strongest and most educated nurses. I understand that times are tough, but I cannot understand why they would choose to make cuts that have been proven to be detrimental to their patients. It is a shame. It is also a shame that people such as &quot;goober&quot; are so bitter and unsupportive. I hope you never have something bad happen to you in a hospital because there weren't enough nurses to properly take care of you, or perhaps you'll visit a different hospital where their nurses are actually supported better.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

We are way off topic and tring to comment on the value of one versus another. The topic that is in this article has to do with professionals picketing during the negotiation process. It has nothing to do with the public or whether patients value nurses over other hospital staff. I will always value the true talent of any organization like police personnel, fire personnel, nurses, doctors, secretaries, etc. But, I will also support fair contract negotiations which should remain behind closed doors between the union and management. No pickets, please. I cannot nor can the public help the nurses in their negotiations.

worried patient

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

@ goober. Nurses are not the center of the universe, but they are very close to the center of the hospital system. Nurses interact with and care for the public, if the public does not support nursing, who will? Ultimately, if there are cuts to nursing, it is the patient population that suffers. I think it is important for the public to be informed. The public does not have a say in the voting for a contract, so ultimately it makes little difference. If we continue to cut salaries in Michigan for professions that are vital such as nursing, police, fire, educators, who will care for our citizens, protect them, keep them safe, educate and nurture them? This is not just about someone wanting more money as you have stated in multiple posts, I'm sorry that you are not seeing the broad picture.

Roger Roth

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

wp, nice thoughts. Mostly, here, it has to do with how much more one worker gets than another, rather than all of us uniting in resolve to ensure everyone gets a great living wage and benefit. This is still the richest country in the world.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

I agree, it's sad that people are willing to rip into other people's professions - and, like it or not, come across as angry and bitter. All of the people complaining about what other people make is troubling. Teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, etc. aren't pulling our economy down - it's those who make 7 or 8 times what those professions make. Being angry at the middle class and those with a decent job isn't going to help anything or anyone. As I've said before, I hope all of these people continue to make a decent living (and yes, $70,000 is decent, not high, not low, decent)...and, I don't actually want my nurse to make peanuts...anyone who has been in a hospital knows that they are the backbone of any hospital.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

Nurses are not the center of the universe. There are many in the health care field that share this value to their patients. I am not bitter, but shed the concept of the nurses trying to drum up public support for their contract negotiations.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

Thank you worried patient for taking the time to express your support for the nursing community. You are so correct about the studies that relate patient outcome to adequate nurse staffing.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

As always, so many of these disputes are about &quot;how much do I get&quot;. But I do think it is funny that even the hospitals are wrestling with how to control health care costs for their own employees.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

&quot;Control health costs&quot;? hahaha...OMG I am tickled! The new $780 000 000. (million) if you don't recognize the number, is what the new Mott Hospital cost. It is 1.1 Million (yes six zeros) square feet is size!


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

Personnel costs are the biggest price tag. HC requires many employees with advanced education which does not apply in many areas, such as auto manufacturing.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

The University administration called the 50% increase in employee contribution to their health insurance a &quot;cost savings&quot; when they presented their budget to the Regents. It is not a savings, it is just shifting the costs to the employees. If the &quot;savings&quot; is just spent on increased positions and salaries for administrators (which is the case) then it does not contribute to productivity. The administration needs to at least be honest rather than putting out propaganda about their budget.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

With all the questions we had yesterday, you said the average nurse's salary is $70,179 and now you tell us that the median salary is $70,553? I still say that those numbers are too high. If you have the data, could you seperate the upper/lower quartiles and tell us what is left? So UMHS wants them to pay 30% towards their premium? I have a pretty good BCBS at my work and I annually pay nearly $3k towards it (withholding) and I don't seem to have much of an issue, considering my salary is considerably less than their average and median. I only wish my 401k was matched like theirs is. I only get 50% of what I put in. UofM employees don't just get it matched, they get it doubled. That would be nice. Still, I can understand if they are ticked off if upper mgmt is getting better raises than they are.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 1:30 a.m.

Another issue with the &quot;average&quot; is that when they publish our salaries they are displayed as if everyone works a 40 hour week, and as most people know not everyone works the 40 hour week in this profession. Alot work part time and also alot work 36 so these salaries are very skewed


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

Believe it or not....The majority of nurses have a very high stress tolerance and are very skilled at not projecting their fears, demands that are placed on them, illnesses they may need to endure themselves on to the patients and their families they are caring for. With the administrative folk clearing the premium hospital parking spaces by 5pm, those working the latter of the 24 hour day are left over to continue. The majority of Nurses would BURN OUT working a 40 hour work week and have enough sense to work part time. As for the &quot;other&quot; employee's they ARE very much underpaid! The custodial staff have been threatened by administration for recycling pop cans/bottles for gas money. It is only very recently can recycling has been implemented. Where that petty cash goes I can only guess. Otherwise there is only waste to be observed in so many ways. Please look to the upper echelon for answers. NOT the direct service workers! Ignorance is NOT bliss! When an idea is suggested the administration takes all the credit. Many research papers have been presented by management as &quot;their own&quot;. Employees sign all rights to their work away when there. It is policy. As for promoting education for the immature tantrum takers? No! NO! NO!..Is is common to have $755.00/mo in health insurance premiums NOT including co pays? If I cannot afford insurance I know which ER I will go to.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

See my post further down. I took the time to figure out the mode average ($57,387.20), which is the salary that the most RNs at UM make. Though, a Nurse who does make $70,000 is still under paid.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

I think the numbers need a lot of examination in re to the various positions. UMMC has a lot of part time nurses, whose average will likely be low. They have nurse practitioners whose salary can be high. Nurses can earn a lot through overtime, but we do not know if these figures are base pay or include OT. But the specialized areas and those who work a lot of OT can obviously alter the averages.

Adam Zeeb

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

Removing the upper and lower quartiles will not change the median. It will still be exactly $70553. I doubt it will change the average much either, since it is already very close to the median.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

@mary-but you do agree that outliers will pull the average and median higher than what the largest concentration of nurses actually make. One of the first thing you learn in a stats class. The average salary does not represent what the majority of nurses make.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

Average = add all salaries together &amp; divide by number of employees. Median = half of employees make more &amp; half make less. You can manipulate numbers to make them say whatever you want, but definitions are absolute. Both the average and median salaries of U-M nurses are $70,000+.

Michigan Man

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

I wonder how sympathetic the U of M Health system food service workers, custodians and other general labor groups are to the nurses concerns and issues - more money for the nurses = less money for the other thousands of healthcare workers within the U of M system. The general public really has no interest in the U of M nurses issues over money. Please leave the thousands of good, non-political and compliant patients out of this mess.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 9:20 p.m.

When nurses no long have overtime incentives or benefits that make up for the decreased wages we receive when compared to surrounding hospital nurses, we will have increased nurse-to-patient ratios, which results in decreased attention from nurses, increased medical errors, and decreased patient safety. No nurse will stay in a hospital or work environment where he or she can't give the BEST care possible because they have too many patients.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

This statment is obvioulsy from ignorance. Spend a few days in the hospital and you will see who the core is. Nurses are not only care providers also huge ADVOCATES for patient's. Nurses are worth their weight in gold. THey deserve their salaries plus more. It is outrageeous that somebody would even think of them in the same catergory as service workers. Nurses have 4-7 years of formal education. Seriously!


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

How on Earth can you possibly draw any parallels between nurses and food, custodial workers.....ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! That is outright offensive OMG!!!!!

worried patient

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

Actually, its the opposite. If nurses salaries go up, those groups (several of them unionized) also go up. If you start cutting nursing, the university will say, &quot;we had to cut nursing, so we'll have to cut your salaries as well.&quot;


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

The general public SHOULD be interested in the &quot;U of M nurses issues over money&quot;. Because it will indeed EFFECT the the general public. Mainly because it's not just an issue over money. It's an issue over adequate compensation to retain and attract the best and brightest nurses who already take care of the SICKEST patients in the state. U of M hospital is the where all the other hospitals send the patient that they can not care for. It's U of M nurses that provide the care for those patients. If the other hospitals provide more pay, with less out of pocket expense, and less acuity of work.......then it will difficult to attract the best nurses to take care of YOU, the general public!


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

@Goober: Informational pickets = screaming and stomping? I think you're reading a lot into that. I'm glad the nurses are pushing back. They are the ones providing the care, not the money driven administrators.


Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

Dave, an additional point is that the hospital MADE $2.1 billion last year. So the CUTTING of nurses salaries arent' even an issue in any case. I understand your numbers scenario. But employees take concessions when a company is IN TROUBLE, to save the company for the greater good of ALL, so that ALL can remain EMPLOYED. Employees do not take concessions when it is making the kinds of profits that are posted for 15 straight fiscal years! Also again, it's not just about the money, it's about attracting and retaining the best, brightest and most experienced nurses in the country due to nature of our HIGHLY critical patients that are not seen at all hospitals. It's about making the incentives attractive to for the staff to work so that shifts are not short and the patient's care is not compromised. That indeed is THE BOTTOM LINE.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

First I'll say I agree with cutting excessive salaries of administrators. Then, I want to make a point that while the cuts may be justified, to save a specific amount of money (say $50M), the salary cut is much more severe for administrators because there are decidedly fewer of them. I won't care to venture where the lines should be drawn, but here are some conservative guesstimate numbers to illustrate the concept: Before cuts: - $75K * 3500 Nurses = $262.5M - $200K * 500 Administrators = $100M If you want to save $50M from cutting salaries of one or the other... - $60K * 3500 Nurses = $212.5M = 20% salary cut - $100K * 500 Administrators = $50M = 50% salary cut Draw what conclusions you will: the only point I'm trying to make is that the # of people from which you can cut administrative salaries from is significantly smaller, and the the cuts are much more drastic. You can cut them, but that cut alone won't save you enough to balance the books.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 10:29 a.m.

I love to see professionals scream and stomp their feet when they do not get their way. It would be interesting if hospital management decided to picket the nurse union hall. But, I am sure that if this happened, the public would say this was childish and immature. The nurses and their union need to grow up and get in sync with the rest of society and pay their fair share for this high cost benefit. Maybe they can help find ways to help drive down the cost of health care seeing that they are part of this industry. I too have an issue with the high wages being paid to administrators, but it seems that this is the path that school board members and city council personnel have also decided is best - throw big dollars at the top positions. Us little people seem to be at quite a disadvantage as long as our elected officials perpetuate this poor wage administrative practice.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

Stephen- you are right that there are compentent, quality nurses at St. Joe's as well as at U of M. The difference begins to show, however, when you get to specialty nursing that only the U provides, one of the reasons we see so many patients transferred from St. Joe's to the U because St. Joe's has run out of medical solutions for the patients. We have survival flight nurses, who keep patients in critical conditions alive WITHOUT an MD on helicopters, in private ambulances, and on fix-wing jets from all over Michigan and several states. We have transplant nurses who know the ups and downs of care before and after heart, lung, kidney, and liver transplants. We have nurses who do child and adult ECMO, a machine that bypasses dysfunctional lungs and oxygenates the blood outside of the body. We have nurses who run 24 renal replacement therapy at the critical patient's bedside, monitoring fluid and electrolyte balance every minute. We have nurses who specialize in high-risk births or extremely premature babies that St. Joe's cannot treat. Etc and so on. So no, you cannot necessarily get the same nursing at both places. Goober- public opinion is the one that matters most. You all are the patients. You all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, the type which hurried nurses can't always give. You all deserve the best in patient safety, and the type of nursing that is most advanced and specialized for maximum expertise. Without incentives, such as a generous retirement, good overtime incentives, and a better retirement package, our experienced specialized nurses may indeed head to st. joe's, where they can make up to $8 an hour more. Right now the benefits at U of M compensate for that pay differential.It matters to the public, because when they or their child or their parent need the special life-saving services that only the U provides, you want the best, most experienced nurses there are, NOT newbies trying to replace them.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

Obviously public opinion does indeed matter, as the few articles that have been posted seem to elicit MUCH public opinion as seen on these comments. And the nurses have been quiet for quite some time. The first articles post since July 1st were all from the hospitals point of view. Thus, when some information finally comes from the nurses, it's stated that we're screaming and stomping. That somehow does not quite seem fair now does it. As far as concessions, the writer that did indeed say that it was not just health care costs that were DEMANDED by the hospital, is correct. It was cuts ALL across the board, OT, PTO, health insurance during FMLA, Float pay/and the way that they orient floats to a new unit, and YES RETIREMENT. Retirement was the the driving force that brought good people to the U. Without all of this, there is nothing to bring the most qualified nurses to the U. Quality of patient care will indeed suffer. This is what we are truly fear. First and foremost, not all of the nurses make $70,000. I know though, that that seems like a dream in this economy. However, take into account the fact that nurses do go to college to earn very expensive degrees, they work nights, weekends, and holidays when the rest of the community is home enjoying with their families. They have vomit and human waste splattered on them. They have back and joint injuries from lifting heavy patients to the degree that at times they can barely move and they are subjected to patients that hit, kick and/or spit at them. Combined this with being exposed to every germ and disease known and unknown to man, and that makes for some of the WORST working conditions known to man. The reason WE NEED such good health care benefits is that we UTILIZE health care due to injury and illness that we sustain ON THE JOB. And yet, why do we do it? Because; there is no better feeling in the world when you save a persons life, heal a soul, or see a smile replace pain!


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Mick52: No insult was ever intended. Let me try this again. I love it when professionals decide that when they are not getting their way, they involve others in what should be a private matter. Based on the information they decide to communicate, emotions rise, feedback can be incorrect for the actual matter at hand and in fact, this technique does nothing to further produce a positive, negotiated result. We do not have all of the facts. This article does not give us all of the facts. We have nothing to do with private, contract negotiations between the nurses and management. Thus, all we can do, if we wish, is give opinions, based on what we feel or what we think we are being told as facts. This matter is best left as a private matter between the nurses and management. The nurses and their union need to keep the matter private. The public cannot do anything for them. Pickets will serve no purpose. My health care benefits will change based on how costs impact the calculated benefit. If the cost of health care goes up again, as it has for many years now, my benefits will change and it is highly probable that I will have to pay more out-of-pocket for my health care. On this basis, I am not willing to subsidize the nurses health care benefit. As stated previously, they should pay the same amount as I pay. They are far from this if I believe what I read. Again, no pickets please. Keep this matter private and negotiate your best offer with the proper authorities. Just remember that you should be the same as other industries and pay your fair share. The nurses and their management have a unique opportunity to drive cost savings which will help all of us instead of what we have experienced for far too many years - a never ending increase in the cost of health care.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

Goober, I am trying to figure out if I can agree with your post or not. You are all over the place, making insulting comments and some that make sense. &quot;Scream and stomp their feet&quot; is in appropriate here. I have little problem with altering the HC split to 70/30 from 80/20, that is becoming a standard split in many areas and is still quite generous. I also agree that an informational picket is fruitless. This is a negotiation between the nurses and the hospital and public opinion does not have to be stimulated, it adds nothing. However you have to look at the big picture. My understanding of these negotiations is that the nurses are being asked to give up in every area, benefit premiums, overtime, pay, etc. Would not be surprised if retirement benefits are on the table too. So if you cut OT and raise benefit premiums you are instituting what becomes a large cut in total compensation. I would say if the hosp wants the HC premiums changed, they should leave the OT provisions alone. Why should the nurses agree to cuts in many areas? But the elephant in the room is the extravagant pay given to physicians and administrators and their benefits. Consider this: a nurse has to pay the same for a parking permit that a highly paid Dr or administrator has to pay. Why isn't the burden equal? (Not to mention the lower paid employees). Same with HC premiums the fees are the same. I think when the highly paid at the hospital agree to cuts that impresses the nurses, they might agree to share the burden, but it appears they are being asked to bear most of the burden. I like nurses. Been in the hospitals for very painful conditions and it was the nurses that made me feel better. Grateful for the Dr's work but I rarely saw them. Nurses made my Dad feel better as he was dying. It's a tough job, requires a college education and if they average $70k, I think they deserve it.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Informational pickets serve no purpose as the public is not involved in contract negotiations. They only comunicate one side. They are like strikes, lockouts - bully tactics. In this case, I have no support for the nurses as their benefits are greater than my benefits. They need to get in sync with other industries and pay their fair share. No pickets, please.

Michigan Man

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

Many, many patients will simply head over to St. Joe - Top notch, outstanding medical community medical leader for decades in Ann Arbor - Nursing care between U of M and St. Joe is really quite the same - U of M nurses have no edge at all over St. Joe nurses. Hope this comment does not piss your readers off too much.


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Informational pickets are not creaming and stomping feet. It is professional and organizational. No one wants to make any decisions without the proper information to process first. As far as the the hospital management being at the union hall, we would have welcomed that. They need to know what their employees thoughts are. You say that we need to pay our fair share, do you know that we currently pay MORE towards our health care benefits than OTHER hospitals in michigan? What we are saying is it's going to be hard to retain and attract the best and the brightest nurses to take care of our patients at U of M with the current salaries/health care costs/ parking costs, and other negative incentives at t working at the U right now. If we don't retain the the right staff and the right number of staff, it will indeed effect You the patient in the long run. The people up top continually pad their pockets with well over 6 figure incomes (sometimes 6 times that) while painting a picture that the average nurse make over $70,000/yr; and that it what drives health care up. They also don't show the facts re: the numbers that make that $70,000 go up being CRNA's who make over 6 figures again. There are many of us who DO NOT MAKE $70,000, who still pay high insurance premiums, pay high parking fees, who have to get to work a half hr. early (will be even earlier when the new Mott opens) just to find a place to park, and who actually don't get paid as much as other hospitals. We do this for the love of our job!