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Soo nurses continue to strike for a fair contract as the next negotiation date with MyMichigan looms

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (WLUC) – Negotiations between Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) nurses and MyMichigan Medical Center Sault executives will continue at a later date as nurses continued to hold the picket line outside the hospital on Thursday.

Nurses presented a proposal during negotiations on Thursday and the federal mediator asked both sides for information, postponing negotiations until May 10.

According to a press release from the union, MNA Soo nurses want MyMichigan Midland executives to know that they will not be misled by contract offers that include so many concessions that many nurses will actually accept what amounts to a pay cut.

“Yes, MyMichigan, nurses can count – and your contract offer is wrong,” says Twyla Niznik, RN. “Our fellow nurses who are part of our chosen negotiating team have been transparent and kept us informed throughout. We stand with them 100 percent in rejecting MyMichigan’s weak proposal. MyMichigan executives mislead the public with numbers that sound good but don’t take into account concessions; for example, in my family we would have to pay $4,200 more per year just to get health insurance. Their wage offer will not compensate for that at all.”

The nurses’ strike started Monday and will end at 6:45 a.m. Saturday. Last month, they voted unanimously to give their fellow nurses on the bargaining team the ability to call a strike if necessary. Nurses notified MyMichigan of the strike on April 3 after a 14th bargaining session failed to reach an agreement. The nurses work under a contract that expires on December 31. About 120 nurses work in the hospital.

Nurses say the hospital is often understaffed because the Midland-based Soo company pays so little compared to other hospitals that it can’t recruit and retain nurses.

“MyMichigan executives’ statements about nurses voting on this contract offer feel like it’s just a way to delay negotiations,” said Jaclyn Neff, RN. “Our union consists of all nurses. We as a union do not want to waste time voting on a contract offer that will impose so many new costs that they will offset the wage increases. MyMichigan’s proposal will not effectively recruit and retain local nurses in our community so that we can provide safe care to all patients at all times. That’s what it’s all about.”

The nurses claim they are grossly underpaid compared to other MyMichigan and UP hospitals. View a comparison table here. Nurses point out that MyMichigan recently spent $10 million on a new hospital computer system and millions more to buy three other hospitals, but refuses to make investing in local nurses a priority.

MNA has alleged that MyMichigan violated federal labor laws multiple times, including by failing to bargain in good faith. MNA has filed multiple unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. MyMichigan executives have been informed of these allegations, so it is unclear why they have publicly denied knowledge of them.