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University of Wisconsin nurses seek community support for union effort

By Ryan Hamann |
January 30, 2020
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Madison, WI - Back in December of 2019, the professional nurses working at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority (UWHCA) demanded the voluntary recognition of their union from the UWHCA Board of Directors.

Dozens of nurses laid out the union’s demands at a UWHCA board meeting. Board members appeared largely indifferent to the presence of these workers expressing their need for recognition and better working conditions.

The demands put forward by the nurses at the meeting specifically centered around a few main points: voluntary recognition of the union by the board, direct the hospital and clinics administration to enter into a meet-and-confer process, restore the just-cause standard and Weingarten rights for all.

After the meeting where these demands were put forward, the board released a statement alleging that it was legally impossible to recognize the union due to the implementation of Wisconsin’s anti-union Act 10 in 2011. However, this claim is a lie. According to the union, voluntary recognition of their organization is legal under Act 10 and is not the same as collective bargaining.

The last union contract with UWHCA expired in 2014. Since then, the nurses tried to allow the hospital the opportunity to address their concerns through committees that were created and administered by the hospital. Unsurprisingly, these committees have led to no meaningful progress on the nurses’ patient care concerns.

“We’re demanding the resources, staffing and protections that are necessary to do our jobs effectively and advocate for our patients,” said Mariah Clark, an Emergency Department nurse at UW Hospital of five years. “By joining together in a strong union, we can raise standards, deliver the highest level of care for our patients, and ensure everyone who works at the hospital can provide for their families while caring for others.”

The upstart union has a strong position, as nationally there is a nursing shortage and locally there is a problem of low morale among UW nurses and other hospital staff. Madison can’t afford to lose more veteran nurses, but the workers are prepared to fight for their rights.

The union is hosting a public town hall meeting for residents of Madison and other supporters to learn more about the union drive and to learn how they can lend aid. The town hall is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on January 29 at the Madison Labor Temple.