The 12th Assembly of Central Student Government (CSG) at the University of Michigan met via Zoom on Tuesday evening to listen University of Michigan Professional Nursing Council (UMPNC) members discuss their concerns about the mistreatment of nurses by Michigan Medicine.
The assembly discussed UMPNC’s allegations regarding their contract negotiations with Michigan Medicine. UMPNC member Anne Jackson represented the council and addressed the assembly on the issue. Jackson said the University disappointed the UMPNC by refusing to work with the union to renegotiate their contract.
“We have a 48-year-old contract that our employer decided to try to rewrite. And we don’t,” Jackson said.
The UMPNC has been negotiating for months with the University and authorized a strike last Friday. The council’s concerns arose after the Michigan Nurses Association accused Michigan Medicine of violating the Public Employment Relations Act 336 of 1947 by refusing to negotiate nurses’ workloads. Jackson, who has been with the UMPNC for 38 years, said the pandemic has prompted the University to make layoffs, increasing nurses’ workloads.
“In June 2020, the University freaked out that they weren’t going to make a profit, and so they laid off 788 people,” Jackson said. “No nurse came through the door. But everyone who walked in the door (created work) that a nurse then had to take on.
With the increase in layoffs, Jackson said the jobs were not being filled, leaving the remaining nurses with a raise hours per patient daythe number of hours worked in a 24-hour day by a single nurse.
“It was a lot more work for the nurses with less support,” Jackson said. “The nurses are doing everything and they are exhausted. They are fed up with. They are frustrated and have been asking to strike since their contract expired in July.
Jackson then raised concerns about the pay of nurses at the University. Jackson said offering competitive salaries is critical for patient safety because as more nurses leave for higher pay elsewhere, fewer are available to work.
“You can’t get nurses to work at your facility without offering competitive salaries,” Jackson said. “It’s about how many patients a nurse has to care for and how safe or insecure. So basically what you’re saying to patients in Michigan (medicine) is that you’re not worth the money to keep our hospital staff safe. And that’s the mentality that unfortunately this hospital has been dealing with for some time. We have patients who are dying now because we don’t have the resources we need.
CSG President Karthik Pasupula expressed his gratitude to Michigan nurses and called for support from the student body.
“I’ve been to Michigan Medicine a few times and I know the work they do is invaluable,” Pasupula said. “It will be much easier for them to get what they deserve if they have the support of the campus community. It is important that our frontline workers are treated with the respect they deserve.
Jackson said there were no net new nurse hires in 2022 and senior nurses were also leaving.
“Nurses are so understaffed that they can’t properly orient (new recruits). So they don’t stay because they’re demoralized,” Jackson said. “Senior nurses are leaving because they can’t provide the care they’ve provided at our hospital for decades and decades and decades.”
Rackham student Austin Glass said he thought Jackson’s speech was informative and could help the student body sympathize with nurses.
“I think (hearing Jackson) really brought a lot of clarity to (the assembly), and I hope we can then share that with the rest of our colleagues and peers in the student body to help them understand the issues facing nurses face. “, said Glass.
The assembly also heard from Maria Fields, an engineering junior, who proposed an event called “The Cookout” – a gathering where student organizations can showcase unique food, dance and music.
“I’m interested in doing a big day celebration on campus that’s focused on culture and community,” Fields said. “In particular, I’m looking to do something that focuses on dance, music, and food, like a potluck.”
Fields offered to host “The Cookout” on the Diag and asked CSG to consider funding the event from the student organizations and projects budget. Fields said she wants school-wide participation and contributes to the diversity of the university community.
CSG has agreed to consider Field’s proposal, but has not yet discussed funding for the event.
The meeting then moved on to Elections, Confirmations and Nominations. Sarah Cieslak, public health officer and CSG representative, was named a member of the Disability Empowerment, Advocacy and Service Fellowship Task Force.
Daily staff reporter Joey Lin can be reached at [email protected]