UW Heath Nurses

UW Health nurses rally for their right to participate in and form a union.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, UW Health nurses held a rally to celebrate the reached union agreement with UW Health executives. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers facilitated the meditation at his official residence, averting a strike that was to begin the same day.

The UW Health board approved the agreement, and nurses voted to ratify it by 97% on Sunday, Sept. 11. Key provisions of the agreement included the right of nurses to: join SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and become immediate members, discuss and solve issues through the union-management process, self-organize and participate in union activity, participate in peer support and establish a process for nurses to potentially achieve formal collective bargaining rights.

“This is a major step forward for nurses and our patients,” Colin Gillis, who has been a UW Health nurse for the past five years, said. “We showed up for our patients and our community through the toughest days of this pandemic. And we’ve shown up for each other to support one another and build our collective power. This agreement is a testament to the strength and determination that nurses bring to everything we do. Now we have the opportunity to meet at the table, roll up our sleeves and get to work. We’re excited to work together with the administration to solve the challenges we’re facing and make sure UW Health is the very best place to work and receive care.”

UW Health CEO Alan Kaplan told Channel3000 he was pleased to reach an agreement. He noted that the hospital was not able to previously recognize the union due to Act 10, a law introduced by former Gov. Scott Walker and his administration. that limited collective bargaining rights.

“What we really care about is patients,” Kaplan said. “While we all agreed we have to work through to get legal clarification, we also agreed we want to take care of patients.”

SEIU Wisconsin and UW Health planned to jointly petition the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) under the agreement. In exchange, nurses agreed to not go on strike until legal proceeds are finished. Both parties retain the right to appeal the ruling, including all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Contact reporter Alisyn Amant at aamant@wisconsinmediagroup.com.

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