Huron Valley-Sinai nurses ratify first union contract after two-year battle

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News
Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital nurses Pat Kampmann-Bush, L, and Jeannie Kindermann announcing a Michigan Nurses Association lawsuit filed against the hospital in Oakland County Circuit Court on Nov. 2, 2017.

Nurses at the Detroit Medical Center's Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital voted to ratify a contract, becoming the first nurses at the eight-hospital health system to unionize. 

The contract was won after a bitter two-year battle that began when the 350 Huron Valley-Sinai nurses voted to organize under the Michigan Nurses Association in March 2016. They argued that insufficient staffing and other issues threatened quality of care at the 158-bed facility in Commerce Township. 

The contract includes safe staffing language to protect patients, wage increases to retain nurses and job protections, the union said Friday. The three-year agreement takes effect immediately and is retroactive to Sept. 1.

“I am so proud of what nurses achieved by forming a union and sticking together. For the first time, we have a grievance procedure with enforceable contract language on professional development, health and safety,” Judy Moore, a nurse and bargaining team member, said in a press release. 

“These tools will help us protect patients and will serve as a model for other DMC (Detroit Medical Center) hospitals.”

It's the second Michigan Nurses Association affiliate to ratify in less than a month. The University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council, which represents more than 5,700 nurses, approved a new three-year contract on Oct. 11 with Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan health system.

In a statement Thursday, the DMC said, "Our patients’ safety and the quality of our care has remained our top priority and will continue to be our focus." 

"We believe the agreement is fair, competitive and acknowledges the value of our nurses’ contributions," the statement continued. "We are committed to moving forward together with all our nurses, both union and non-union, continuing our dedication to patient safety and quality.

The Michigan Nurses Association filed a lawsuit against Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital in Oakland County Circuit Court on Nov. 2, 2017, saying a staff shortage was placing nurses and patients at risk. A judge granted the health system's motion to dismiss the lawsuit in March, a decision the union is appealing. 

“This is a huge leap forward, not just for Huron Valley nurses, but for our patients and for the entire DMC system,” said Kathy Lehman, a nurse and president of the Professional Nurses Association of Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital.

“We deeply appreciate the support our fellow hospital employees and the community at-large provided throughout this process," Lehman said in a statement. "With a strong contract in place, nurses will be able to advocate more effectively for quality care.”

Twitter: @kbouffardDN