Nurses close 48-hour strike at UP Health System-Marquette

Stephanie DePetro, UP Health System-Marquette RN’s chief grievance steward, is shown in a file photo. Nurses at UP Health System-Marquette ended their strike this weekend.
(Journal photo/Mary Wardell)

Stephanie DePetro, UP Health System-Marquette RN’s chief grievance steward, is shown in a file photo. Nurses at UP Health System-Marquette ended their strike this weekend. (Journal photo/Mary Wardell)

MARQUETTE — Nurses employed by UP Health System-Marquette concluded their 48-hour strike at 7 a.m. Saturday over the issue of what they believe is the hospital’s refusal to guarantee proper nurse staffing levels at all times to ensure safety.

Nurses showed up ready to work at that time Saturday morning, consistent with their strike notification and with instructions from management to nurses, according to the Michigan Nurses Association. However, Duke LifePoint, which owns the hospital, turned away local nurses in favor of replacement nurses who had been brought in to work during the strike.

UPHS-Marquette issued a statement:

“UPHS-Marquette has been made aware of rumors regarding a ‘lock-out’ at the hospital. This is inaccurate, and we would like to clarify with the community.

“A ‘lock-out’ is a situation that occurs when an employer takes preemptive action to prevent employees from working. This is not happening at UPHS-Marquette.

“As previously shared, we retained a nationally respected staffing agency to secure highly qualified replacement nurses during the MNA’s declared two-day work stoppage. A minimum commitment of five days is required to secure this level of nursing coverage, which therefore means we expect to be fully staffed with replacement nurses Saturday, Sunday and Monday — Oct. 7, 8, and 9. After these dates, our regular nursing staff will be back at work as usual.

“We have made numerous efforts to notify our nurses that we may be fully staffed on these dates both prior to the work stoppage and since its commencement Thursday morning, and we will continue to do so until staffing returns to normal following the work stoppage.

“We want our team back at work and will be happy when they return. In the meantime, we will continue to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of the high quality, safe and compassionate care that our patients and community members expect and deserve.”

Nursing officials issued responses following the strike:

“Nurses who live here are invested in good patient outcomes because we are caring for our friends and families,” said Stephanie DePetro, certified operating room nurse and chief grievance steward of the UPHS-Marquette RN Staff Council/MNA, in a news release. “Shame on Duke LifePoint for undermining that healing human connection in an attempt to protect their profits.”

Chris Sorelle, Emergency Room nurse and member of the bargaining team, thanked people who helped on the picket line or cheered the nurses from afar, noting in a prepared statement: “We will use that momentum to continue advocating for quality care and a safer nursing practice.”

Local carpenters, insulators, and iron and steelworker union members held signs in solidarity with the nurses as they, as well as community members, marched the block of College Avenue at the beginning of the strike Thursday.

Sara Cambensy, Democratic candidate for 109th District state representative, and Rich Rossway, Republican candidate for that seat, attended the nurses strike Friday to show their support of the protesters.

“From the beginning, management has failed to plan for and ensure long-term, consistent RN safe staffing,” said Scott Balko, operating room RN and president of the UPHS-Marquette RN Staff Council/MNA, in a news release.

Victor Harrington, regional director of marketing and business development for UPHS, told The Mining Journal that after the strike the hospital and the MNA will work together to find an agreement that works for both parties.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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