Stronger together: A Brief History of UMPNC-MNA, 1976-2021 download PDF edition here
Before RNs formed our UNION…
Before Registered Nurses organized with the Michigan Nurses Association to form the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC-MNA):
RNs had no collective voice to improve their working conditions
RNs were forced to work an unlimited number of consecutive days in a row and multiple shift changes in a week
RNs were forced to work overtime and over appointment without any limits
RNs with seniority and more experience were earning less than new hires
Registered Nurses addressed these injustices and many more by standing together as the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council.
Our first Agreement
On April 12, 1976, approximately 850 RNs and Advanced Practice Nurses won their first union contract. The Agreement provided:
Safeguards against unjust discipline and discharge as well as a grievance procedure
A professional wage scale that eliminated favoritism through annual step and across the board wage increases
Overtime pay: daily when an RN works beyond their normal shift and weekly for working in excess of 40 hours
Shift premiums and on-call pay
Holidays, vacations, extended sick pay, health care coverage
The 1978 Agreement
With the 1978 Agreement, the membership won language that:
Established the primary responsibility of RNs was patient care which did not require members to function in non-RN roles on a regular or reoccurring basis
Limited the number of shift changes in a week
Secured that volunteers must be sought for OA or OT before other RNs were assigned
Set limits on weekend scheduling
Included a significant wage increase
1981: first work stoppage
In the early 1980s members of UMPNC-MNA continued to demand more clinical and professional autonomy. RNs asserted that they must have the authority to perform their duties on behalf of patients and their families.
The University was unwilling to relinquish control, and the parties were at an impasse.
Nurses voted to conduct a work stoppage and informed the employer. They put patients first by offering to do triage to determine who could be transferred, and offering to care for those patients who were still in need.
The University refused, and rank and file nurses made the difficult decision to withhold their labor. Some members were scared, some were saddened, but the action was actively supported by the vast majority of the membership. UMPNC-MNA members received strong support and solidarity from the community, other unions and workers at the University. Patients also contributed to the action. The stoppage continued for three weeks, and in the end, Registered Nurses won ground-breaking contract language: Article Three – Professional Nursing, which established that:
The University has the obligation to provide and maintain a suitable environment for the practice of Nursing
The University recognized that RNs are members of the Nursing Profession and are employed to assume responsibility for the Nursing process
RN performance should be evaluated by a Registered Nurse
RNs are responsible for coordinating the work, teaching, and contributing to the evaluation of clinical nursing skills of designated Nursing personnel
The University is responsible for assisting RNs by establishing programs and providing resources for orientation and RN clinical development
With the victory, the UMPNC-MNA members won professional autonomy and asserted their union as a force for improved patient care.
The 1984 Agreement
Nurses continued to make professional progress, including:
The UMPNC-MNA won job classifications that described the roles for Clinical Nurse I, II, and III, as well as for role specific jobs such as Flight Nurse, Clinical Care Coordinator, Education Nurse Coordinator, and Home Care Coordinator
The Nurse Resource Pool was established
Nurse Practice Committees were formed
1989: second work stoppage
By 1989, the UMPNC-MNA had grown to about 1800 members. After three months of bargaining, the University made a final offer to the Nurse Council on July 26. The employer’s offer did not address the significant OT that forced fatigued RNs to work without any limits.
The membership rejected the University’s final offer, in part because of the significant risk to patient safety posed by the overtime, and gave the employer the required strike notice. After 19 days out, RNs were ordered back to work by a Washtenaw County Judge, who mandated that the parties engage in good-faith fact finding.
After nine days of testimony, the Fact Finder recommended large back-to-back wage increases. The University and the UMPNC-MNA agreed to the Fact Finder’s recommendations, which made it easier to recruit RNs from across the region.
The 250 open positions that existed before the strike were soon filled after the settlement. The significant wage increases had a positive effect on staffing, scheduling, and substantially decreased overtime. The Agreement also established additional straight day-shift positions and included significant wins, such as:
Limits on weekend scheduling
The beginning of straight day shift assignments
Off-shift bonuses and the beginning of straight off-shift assignments
A new memorandum of understanding concerning workload
A New Approach
Two work stoppages within eight years left UMPNC-MNA members with little trust for the employer. Therefore, after the 1989 settlement, the parties began exploring if they could relate to one another differently to better meet the needs of nurses and patients.
Some of the initial, positive outcomes of this “interest based” approach included:
Salvaging the Continuing Care Department (currently called the Care Management Department)
Creating the Professional Practice Model (shared governance)
Creating unit-based Workload Review Committees to address insufficient staff and promote RN work satisfaction
The 2001 Agreement
With the first Agreement of the new millennium, UMPNC-MNA members won concrete limits regarding mandatory OT. The Agreement also provided that, depending on the clinical unit, RNs could not be assigned OA or OT in excess of 8 or 16 hours within a four-week schedule. Further, with some rare exceptions, all OA/OT hours volunteered counted toward this limit, and volunteers must always be sought before any RN is assigned OA/OT.
The 2004 Agreement
By August 2004, the UMPNC-MNA grew to over 3,000 members. The Agreement was ratified by a 4:1 margin and secured compensation that set the standard for RNs in the region.
The new contract also provided a tangible methodology for determining shared health care costs as well as limits on the costs of prescription medications assumed by members.
The hallmark of the 2004 Agreement was the Framework for Professional Development. This new clinical ladder eliminated barriers of the former Clinical Nurse I-II-III structure, which previously limited RN recognition and compensation for movement toward more clinical expertise. Also, the new Framework guaranteed that RN performance and clinical advancement would be determined by concrete behaviors by a joint, centralized committee as well as an appeals process if RNs were denied advancement. This structure was later extended to members in the role specific job classifications.
The 2008 Agreement
The 2008 Agreement provided almost 4,000 UMPNC-MNA members with exemplary compensation. But more importantly, the new contract made significant progress toward addressing long-standing mandatory OT concerns. OA/OT limits decreased to 6 or 8 hours, depending on the clinical unit, within the 4 week schedule. Also, the Agreement improved members’ ability to transfer within the Health System as well as a quarterly bonus for Survival Flight members.
Strong health and safety language was negotiated to ensure ongoing surveillance, management and prevention of injuries and exposures sustained by nurses wherever they practice.
The 2011 Agreement
With the 2011 negotiations, UMPNC-MNA members mobilized for improvements. Nurses were visible throughout the community through the following collective actions:
A press conference at the Michigan Union
A 1,500 member march up Medical Center Drive to present 3,000 member signatures to the Executive Vice President of the Health System
A presentation to the University Regents
This extensive mobilization of members was reminiscent of UMPNC-MNA struggles of the 70s and 80s. With the 2011 Agreement, the UMPNC-MNA expanded the Professional Nursing language, added Per Diem nurses to the bargaining unit, increased ways for members to secure scheduled PTO, and allowed clinical units the ability to determine holiday guidelines on an annual basis. Furthermore, members who worked within the Michigan Visiting Care unit gained full wage parity with Health System RNs. Most importantly, the UMPNC-MNA prevented the full force of health care costs for three years, all while members received wage increases throughout the life of the contract.
The 2018 Agreement
In 2018, UMPNC-MNA faced its biggest challenge in decades as new regimes in Nursing Management and Human Resources demonstrated their resolve to weaken our union, refusing to engage in interest based problem solving and demanding unnecessary concessions, including significant cuts to nurses’ retirement contributions. UMPNC-MNA nurses mobilized by the thousands and, in response to bad faith bargaining by the employer and other unfair labor practices, voted by a 94% margin to authorize a work stoppage, with 70% of members voting. Thanks to the engagement and collective actions of our membership, management finally agreed to return to the table to bargain in good faith and a work stoppage was averted. There were multiple other successful mobilization activities carried out prior to the vote for a work stoppage. These included an informational picket in front of the hospital, where over 2,000 nurses and allies participated.
UMPNC-MNA ultimately won the strongest contract in decades, which included (among many other gains) enforceable language to maintain current staffing levels, a ban on mandatory overtime except in clearly defined emergency situations, and a 10% across the board pay raise over the 3 year life of the contract. UMPNC accepted no takeaways in exchange for these gains. UMPNC-MNA members voted by a 98% margin to ratify this landmark agreement.
2020: COVID-19 and UMPNC-MNA’s fight against austerity and for PPE
In 2020, as the world reeled from an unprecedented public health crisis, Michigan Medicine responded by cutting wages, benefits and jobs, using the pandemic as a pretext to impose an austerity agenda to maximize its profit margin. UMPNC-MNA fought back, joining with other University unions to fight against staffing cuts and for adequate PPE and other patient safety measures. Furthermore, the Michigan Nurses Association’s efforts were instrumental in securing a ruling from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) that guaranteed all nurses working with patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections would be provided N-95 masks along with other appropriate PPE.
The Future of Our Union
In 2021, the Michigan Nurses Association and University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council celebrate 45 years of fighting together for the interests of nurses, patients and all working people. As Michigan Medicine, together with for-profit hospital chains across the state, continue to put profits before patient care, UMPNC-MNA will continue to tirelessly advocate, educate, and take action for worker and patient safety, as well as fair wages, benefits and working conditions for all.
University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council 4343 Concourse Dr., Suite 230, Ann Arbor, MI 48108-8802 UMPNCouncil@gmail.com