Nurses File Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against University of Michigan Health System

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ann Sincox; (517) 256-2312

T-shirts a point of contention in the ongoing contract negotiations between UMPNC/MNA and UMHS

(Ann Arbor, MI) – The right to wear a red t-shirt while at work is being disputed between the management at University of Michigan Health System, also known as Michigan Medicine, and the nurses represented by the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council/Michigan Nurses Association (UMPNC/MNA). Complaints from nurses who were not allowed to wear their t-shirts have resulted in UMPNC/MNA filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission on June 14, 2018.

The Unfair Labor Practice charge states that University of Michigan Health System has discriminated against employees in protected speech by selectively prohibiting specific union messages, an alleged violation of the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act.

The t-shirt issue began when, to show unity among the UMPNC/MNA membership, a red t-shirt was created with a block “M” on the front with the word “NURSES” through it and the words “Fighting for a fair contract for the good of patients and nurses” printed below. Management objected to this shirt, stating that the slogan was a call for community support and action. Some nurses were told to remove the shirt immediately while others were told they could not wear the shirt again.

In response, nurses then created a different red t-shirt with a block “N” for “Nurses” on the front with the slogan “For the good of patients and nurses.” This shirt was also met with firm resistance from management. In some departments, nurses were told they could not wear either of the t-shirts, wear red shirts of any kind or any insignia referring to the union. This is in direct conflict with the hospital’s longstanding dress code and was not negotiated with the nurses before being implemented.

“This is union-busting, plain and simple,” said Ted McTaggart, UMPNC Secretary and a primary care triage nurse. “Our contract does not prohibit us from wearing red t-shirts or buttons or any insignia with the union logo or message. This is nothing more than intimidation and discrimination on the part of the management to weaken our collective power. Management cannot change the dress code arbitrarily without bargaining with us. They don’t get to take the shirts off our backs twice.”

“We are committed to working with University of Michigan Health System to negotiate a fair contract that protects nurses and provides an excellent environment in which to practice safe patient care,” said Katie Oppenheim, RN, president of the UMPNC/MNA. “Management trying to intimidate us in this way is an unnecessary distraction and takes valuable time away from the negotiation process.  We look forward to finalizing our bargaining with a solid contract that will help us recruit and retain professional nurses.”

The nurses have been in contract negotiations since January 20, 2018. The current contract expires on June 30, 2018.

The Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) is the largest, most effective union for registered nurses in Michigan, advocating for nurses and their patients at the State Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table.


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