Nurses set to strike at UW Health

Nurses said they will give their official strike notice to the administration at University of Wisconsin Health in Madison on Sept. 2.

The nurses announced the news Sept. 1 via a news release shared with Becker's. They are demanding quality patient care, safe staffing and recognition of their union, Service Employees International Union Wisconsin said.

"I'm striking to take a stand for quality patient care for my community and the well-being of front-line nurses," Amanda Klinge, a six-year registered nurse in the orthopedic trauma unit at UW Health, said in the release. "When my nurse colleagues and I see potentially preventable patient care problems occur day after day because of extreme understaffing, it is damaging to our psyche and our very soul. This is not how our healthcare system should be run, and we refuse to accept this as the 'new normal.'"

The nurses voted overwhelmingly Aug. 24 to strike. They are prepared to strike from 7 a.m. Sept. 13 to 7 a.m. Sept. 16. However, they said they are allowing more time for the UW Health board and administration to agree to negotiate and recognize their union. They also are allowing more time so UW Health can prepare for a possible strike, should one occur.

In a statement shared with Becker's, UW Health press secretary Emily Kumlien said the health system is aware of the nurses' plan to formally announce a strike on Sept. 2.

"This is unfortunate given that a strike will do nothing to alter the legal uncertainties surrounding the health system's ability to collectively bargain. Since the original announcement of the planned strike, UW Health [has been] focused on the continued safety and quality care for all patients, ensuring patient care is impacted as minimally as possible," she said.

Nurses lost their SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin representation in 2014 when their last contract expired. UW Health chose not to  negotiate a new contract with the union, citing state legislation that abrogated their obligation to recognize and negotiate with employee unions.

Nurses have advocated in recent years for the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic Authority to voluntarily recognize the union so they may regain representation. According to the union, more than 1,500 nurses have signed cards saying they want union representation, and the union size would be about 2,600. UW Health has 3,400 nurses total.

 For additional information, see the health system's previous statement.

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