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Marquette nurses authorize strike

MARQUETTE — Following a two-day vote, unionized nurses at UP Health System-Marquette authorized to go on strike, according to the Michigan Nurses Association.

Members of the UPHS-Marquette RN Staff Council/MNA have been in contract negotiations with hospital administrators since April 18, 2017. They’ve been working without a contract since July 28 after a two-month extension expired.

Voting closed at 9 p.m. Saturday, and at that time, no strike date had been set. The elected nurse bargaining team has the authority to call a strike, and by law, they are required to give the hospital 10 days notice, MNA said.

Nurses have cited staffing levels which they believe to be unsafe for patients as a primary reason for authorizing the strike. The union previously held a two-day strike Oct. 5 and 6 after negotiations to address those concerns failed.

“Very little has changed since our first strike in October,” said Scott Balko, operating room registered nurse and president of the UPHS Marquette RN Staff Council/MNA. “Nurses still take the decision to strike very seriously, and we will do whatever it takes to protect our practice and the community that we serve.”

The UPHS-Marquette RN Staff Council represents about 375 registered nurses at UP Health System-Marquette.

“We are disappointed with union leadership’s decision to schedule another strike authorization vote, rather than focusing their efforts at the bargaining table,” said Victor Harrington, UPHS-Marquette spokesperson, in a statement. “For months now, we have been dedicated to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that meets the needs of all parties, and this action by the MNA at this time is an unhelpful distraction. We are not sure how a strike would serve anyone’s interests.”

Contract negotiations are scheduled to continue today, May 8, May 9, May 22 and May 24, Harrington said.

Patient safety and high-quality care remain the top priority, he said.

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