UnityPoint Health-Meriter nurses set possible strike date

Amid contract negotiations, registered nurses at UnityPoint Health-Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wis., are considering a strike starting March 24, according to the union that represents them. 

The nurses, who are represented by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, a statewide branch of the Service Employees International Union, said they have issued a strike notice and are seeking policies to ensure they feel valued and can recover from stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A strike could still be averted if an agreement is reached. 

"Nurses have gone through the hardest year of our lives," Louise Nordstrom, a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Meriter, said in a March 13 news release. "We cared for the sickest of the sick, always putting our patients first. We're proud of the way that nurses and healthcare workers showed up for our community. But after a grueling year, nurses are exhausted and burning out. With this contract, we're advocating for support, for rational policies around time off and fair compensation so that we can recover from this pandemic."

Plans for a possible strike come as the union has bargained with hospital management for more than a month, most recently with involvement of a federal mediator. 

Nurses say they want a meaningful voice in making decisions, as well as reasonable work-life balance and sufficient paid time off, fair pay for nurses who work extra shifts on their days off, and protections against the current public health crisis and any in the future. 

The hospital said it has offered competitive benefits, ample paid time off (up to seven weeks annually for longtime nurses), above-market pay increases, additional job protection during parental leave and a pandemic relief bonus of up to $800 per nurse. 

"We recognize the challenges the pandemic has caused professionally, personally and emotionally for all our team members, including our dedicated nurses. We value our nurses as individuals and have put great effort into supporting them," the hospital said in a news release shared with Becker's March 15. 

That's why Meriter said it is disappointed about the possible strike. The hospital said it plans to bring in qualified and experienced nursing staff if there is a strike, to ensure safe patient care.  

More than 850 registered nurses at Meriter Hospital are part of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.


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