Petoskey Nurses Vote Today

NMH Vote Highlights Teamsters' Struggles at Hospital

For Immediate Release

MIDLAND — The fact that nurses at Northern Michigan Hospital (NMH) in Petoskey are voting today over whether the Teamsters will continue to represent them indicates that the union’s support among the nurses is shaky, regardless of how the vote comes out, according to Mackinac Center for Public Policy Labor Research Associate Paul Kersey.

“In order for this vote to be held, 30 percent of the nurses had to sign petitions asking for the removal of the Teamsters as their collective bargaining representative. That means that nearly a third — at minimum — of the nurses oppose Teamster policies and were motivated enough to act on their disagreements with local Teamsters officials,” said Kersey. “Even if the Teamsters avoid being removed, that division among the nurses will remain and will make it difficult for the union to achieve its aims.”

The nurses’ strike began in November of 2002, with approximately half of some 500 nurses at Northern Michigan hospital walking out and the other half continuing to work. A blue-ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm investigated conditions at the hospital and issued a report in September, but the panel’s efforts failed to resolve the dispute.

Among the issues in dispute between the hospital and Teamsters local 406 is the union’s insistence on an “agency fee” clause, which would require all nurses either to join the union or to pay an amount roughly equivalent to union dues. “Agency fee” clauses are unenforceable in the 22 states with “right-to-work” laws. Last year a poll showed that 62 percent of likely voters in Michigan supported passage of such a law.

“The union has far more to lose in today’s vote than the hospital does,” according to Kersey. “If the majority of the nurses vote to remove the union, the Teamsters will no longer represent the nurses and there will be no expectation that the hospital will negotiate with the union. The strike will be over for all practical purposes.”

By contrast, if the Teamsters win, all parties are basically back where they were the day before the vote. “The Teamsters would likely gain a public relations boost, which will help their relations with the larger community, especially if they win by a solid margin. But regardless of the margin, the hospital will have no legal duty to make any concessions it hasn’t made already,” Kersey said.

The decertification election will be held at three polling places. Voting should be completed by 8:00 p.m. tonight, and initial tabulation should begin shortly thereafter.

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