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Iowa Health Care Workers Win

by staff |
April 15, 1999
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Iowa City, IA - Nurses and other professional staff at the University of Iowa hospitals and clinics won a great victory over a hostile management. Following up on a successful organizing drive, they pushed for, and won a decent contract. They are now represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The struggle started approximately one year ago. A small group of nurses gathered together to select a union to represent their interests. Their primary goals were greater workplace control and a number of salary and health and safety concerns.

Nurses have been pressed hard over the last several years. Increasing work loads have made a hard job almost impossible. The risks of making a mistake increased, and with this, a greater risk of hurting patients. This was not acceptable for nurses at the University Hospitals and they organized to put a stop to it.

Nurses' pay had been frozen for almost five years while supervisors' and administrators' pay continued to rise ever higher. This too was unacceptable, and the nurses vowed to end it.

They selected SEIU to be their representative and began to organize their fellow nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, dieticians and others. They created committees in each work area and actively spoke to each person to win their votes for the union.

The management actively organized to stop these workers from exercising their rights. They lied to workers about their rights, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on propaganda to defeat the union. They spent public money to hire union busters to come in to defeat the vote. They instructed supervisors to threaten workers at their work sites and harass union organizers.

"Hard organizing won out over fear," said one nurse. "Every trick they pulled just made us madder and we worked that much harder."
The workers won their drive to create a union on the first vote. After the management had spent thousands of dollars of the public's money to stop workers from exercising their rights, they won a great victory for all health care workers in the state of Iowa.

The management was not done with its dirty tricks, however. They tried to stonewall on contract talks and break the union with a bad agreement. They waited until the last minute before making a reasonable and honest offer to the union. They hoped to scare the union into a poor contract.

Hospital workers stood their ground and won not only a contract, but a contract that was a clear victory. The contract passed a vote by the membership by 95%. Workers won the right negotiate for better staffing to ensure that they and their patients are safe. They won increased pay, six percent over two years. They won holiday pay. They won the right for overtime for all workers. They defeated their fear and the threats of management and won a better workplace.