University of Michigan Hospital Bans T-Shirts

How do you get a group of people energized? Ban something. At least that’s what happened when administrators at the University of Michigan Hospital banned employees from wearing custom red t-shirts supporting nurses in contract negotiations.

According to RN Anne Jackson, a union steward working on behalf of the members, “With each banned shirt, more members got involved. The original banned red shirt (see shirt #1) said, “Fighting for a fair contract for the good of patients and nurses.” Supervisors told nurses to change or turn the shirt inside out; some were sent home.”

Jackson and others came up with a modified version (see shirt #2).

Adminstrators were unmoved. No doubt an emergency meeting took place discussing the next possible modification.

“BAN ALL OF THOSE T-SHIRTS,” must have sounded like a good idea at the time.  Clearly no one involved in the decision-making realized they were dealing with smart people. The ban incited people to the point of picketing in the hot summer heat wearing…yes red t-shirts.

The banned t-shirts exploded on social media, helping to get a message out that might otherwise have been buried under union and hospital negotiation banter. One important issue include cost-cutting measures,  “despite a yearly surplus of over $100 million,” says Jackson where she posted her story on

Patient safety is at the heart of the negotiations, because they are nurses. Staffing levels remains a sticking point. Read Ms. Jackson’s entire post on

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