Community supports nurses in picket line

Members of the Marquette Education Association, joined hundreds of others Sunday in what was termed a community picket at UP Health System-Marquette, in support of Michigan Nurses Association members. (Photo courtesy of Steve Stauge)

MARQUETTE — Even though UP Health System-Marquette nurses concluded their two-day strike regarding safe staffing issues Saturday, community support and advocacy is still needed, nurses say.

“We deeply appreciate the tremendous outpouring of solidarity from the Marquette community, and that continued support means the world to us. Nurses are not calling for more picketing at this time, but we do need your help now and for the long haul as we advocate for quality care,” stated Scott Balko, operating room registered nurse and president of the UPHS Marquette RN Staff Council/Michigan Nurses Association, in a news release.

Registered nurse Greg Kerwin told The Mining Journal today that nurses have received many requests from businesses and citizens about how they can show their solidarity with nurses. Kerwin said he’s going to distribute signs throughout the community later today.

Scheduled nurses showed up to work accordingly after the strike concluded Saturday morning. According to Kerwin, who was scheduled to work at 7 a.m., nurses were met with locked doors.

“We don’t know when we’ll be allowed back to work,” Kerwin said. “Some nurses have been called off by supervisors — but not everybody. Some of us won’t know that we’re not needed until we show up to work because the hospital hasn’t communicated their plan with us.”

A community member displays a placard in support of the nurses. (Photo courtesy of Steve Stauge)

According to hospital management, information regarding that the hospital is participating in a “lock-out” situation is false.

“Marquette has been made aware of rumors regarding a ‘lock-out’ at the hospital. This is inaccurate, and we would like to clarify with the community. A ‘lock-out’ is a situation that occurs when an employer takes preemptive action to prevent employees from working. This is not happening at UPHS-Marquette,” Victor Harrington regional director of marketing and business development for UPHS said in a statement.

According to Harrington, regular nurses won’t be back until Tuesday morning since the hospital is fully staffed with replacement nurses.

Since the hospital retained a “national respected staffing agency to secure qualified replacement nurses during the MNA’s declared two-day work stoppage,” a minimum commitment of five days is required to secure nursing coverage, Harrington said in a statement.“After these dates, our regular nursing staff will be back at work as usual.”

Harrington also said the hospital has made numerous efforts to notify the nurses that they may be fulled staffed since the strike began. However, Kerwin, stated many nurses had no idea.

“Nurses have been reporting to work at the reception desk on the third floor and are greeted by security forces and administrative assistance,” Kerwin said. “We are ready to work and will continue to be.”

The MNA is telling community members who want to help show their support to put signs in their windows or yards.

“As a next step, we are asking businesses and home owners to display window and yard signs from now until a new contract is signed. When out-of-town strikebreakers or out-of-state Duke LifePoint executives visit, even if they don’t identify themselves, they need to see constant reminders of the solidarity that was so evident on the strike line. MNA is printing signs, and of course, handmade signs are great too,” Balko said. “Signs are a next step, not a last step. Thank you for standing with local nurses as we continue to work toward a fair contract that includes safe staffing language for our patients.”

The Mining Journal asked for further comments from hospital management but did not hear back before press time.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is