McLaren Macomb nurses authorize strike, cite patient care concerns

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The union representing nurses at McLaren Macomb Hospital said Tuesday that a majority voted in favor of striking over patient care issues.

Officials with OPEIU Local 40 said that more than 8 out of 10 RNs at McLaren Macomb voted to authorize a walkout. The union represents 550 nurses whose contract with the Mount Clemens hospital expires July 27.

"Hopefully we’ll continue bargaining," OPEIU Local 40 President Jeffrey Morawski said Tuesday. "But if we're not getting anywhere, we’ll put a 10-day notice in to call for a strike."

Negotiations for a new contract began in February, but union officials said talks have stalled due to what they say is the Mount Clemens hospital's "failure to resolve significant patient safety and nursing morale issues."

"Our RNs have worked diligently and endlessly over the last year dealing with an unprecedented pandemic, with a remarkable lack of support from McLaren," Morawski said in a statement Tuesday. "A central issue in the negotiations is to provide safe and appropriate nurse-patient ratios, which is the best way to protect our community. With these vote totals, obviously the nurses do not favor McLaren's wholly inadequate proposals that seemingly are designed only to protect McLaren's bottom line."

McLaren Macomb officials expressed their disappointment Tuesday in the vote and said the union has used unfair labor practices to stall negotiations and push the nurses to strike. 

"The timing of this vote coincides with the difficult time that all hospitals have had recruiting and retaining nurses during the pandemic and is not a coincidence," hospital officials wrote. "This is an unconscionable attempt by select union representatives to use the pandemic as leverage at the bargaining table."

"McLaren respects and cares deeply about our nurses and team members on the frontlines and wants to provide them the security of a long-term contract," officials continued. "We have been bargaining in good faith with OPEIU since February 2021 and have made significant progress on the terms for a new contract, including reaching 20 tentative agreements."

McLaren Macomb said its most recent proposal includes a $2,000 nurse appreciation and ratification bonus, a 15.5% wage increase to retain and attract quality nurses, and plans to increase staffing levels and add more nursing support when needed.

There are 130 outstanding unresolved grievances related to providing adequate staff for patient care, said the union’s vice president, Dina Carlisle.

“In most of these cases, McLaren failed to meet the staffing ratios already in the contract,” she said. “In addition, there is a wholesale failure to provide the non-RN assistants that the contract requires.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN