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Detroit nurses fight for union

Published Oct 13, 2007 7:47 AM

A raucous demonstration of more than a hundred nurses outside of the Detroit Medical Center on Oct. 4 supported the organizing efforts of the nurses working inside. On Oct. 1, the DMC Organizing Committee for Change had filed a petition for a union recognition election with the National Labor Relations Board. More than half of the nurses at DMC component hospitals Harper and Hutzel have signed cards supporting the union.

Unionized nurses from across the state came out from the Michigan Nurses Association convention held nearby to show support for the DMC nurses, who are standing up to an anti-union campaign by the hospital administration, and to encourage the DMC not to interfere with the upcoming vote.

In addition to conducting intimidating one-on-one meetings, disciplining nurses for distributing union material while continuing to pass out anti-union information, the DMC CEO Mike Duggan has threatened to thwart the election by claiming that most nurses are supervisors and therefore exempt from union representation.

The DMC organizing drive is an important battle in this city that is devastated by auto plant closings and the massive loss of industrial jobs. Michigan’s Democratic Gov.

Jennifer Granholm is promoting jobs in health care statewide but particularly in Detroit as an antidote to the chronic, pervasive unemployment and lack of opportunity for youth.

But will they be jobs where workers are organized and able to fight for better conditions for nurses and patients from this community? Or will they be jobs where the business bottom line comes first?

Mike Duggan, former deputy Wayne County executive, and former Wayne County prosecutor with connections at the upper echelons of both Democratic and Republican parties and now CEO at DMC, is no friend of workers.

Appointed to “turn around” the financially strapped DMC, he did so with federal, state and city funds and renegotiating contracts with the doctors at the Wayne State University Medical School.

In a leaflet addressed to the Detroit community, the DMC registered nurses call on the DMC to “stop the use of public funds to fight RNs.” The DMC nurses ask supporters to tell CEO Mike Duggan at 313-745-1250 to sign a fair election agreement with the RNs.

—Report & photo by Cheryl LaBash