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MARQUETTE — “What do we want? Safe staffing! When do we want it? Now!” Chants of local R.N.’s echoed through the streets outside of UPHS Marquette today.

Emily Koren, an R.N. at UPHS, explained, “Sometimes, very often, we’re working 12 hour shifts because we are retaining our staff. We’re exhausted, and we’re not able to give our attention fully to our patients the way we feel is right and safe.” 

Nurses at UP Health System-Marquette have been fighting for safe staffing levels since negotiations started 6 months ago. Today was just the beginning of their 48 hour strike.

“It’s been very emotional. A lot of highs and lows today. People sad that we’re not in here taking care of our patients, because that’s what we want to do,” Koren added. “We don’t want to be out here on the street, we want to be in there. And we’ve been given no other choice than to be here right now.”

Hundreds of nurses and supporters lined the streets surrounding the hospital, with an outpouring of support from the community.

Kris Hough, also an R.N. at UPHS, shared, “The day has been fantastic, we’ve had 3 or 400 of our closest friends here walking with us from unions all over the place.”

…..including union workers who are working on the new  hospital.

“This isn’t just a union issue with the nurses, this is a community issue. We’re here to support the community. And, just because we’re across town, this picket line might as well run over there.”

To make up for lost labor – the hospital has recruited temporary licensed R.N.’s. from across the state.

Victor Harrington, the Regional Director of Marketing and Business Development at UPHS said, “We are fully staffed for this, for this strike. We want to assure our community and our patients that our doors are indeed open, and that they will continue to receive the high quality of care that they would expect any other day.”

UPHS nurses say the wages of the temporary staff is more than double what they are normally paid.

The hospital says they plan to resume negotiations when the strike is over.

“Basically, we remain ready to return to the bargaining table and really want to work closely with the union to come to an agreement, find a contract that works, and one that meets the needs of our nurses, our hospital, and our community,” Harrington added.

Nurses are rotating shifts, and will be outside the hopital picketing around the clock until the strike is over Saturday morning.