UW Health, union, nurses reach agreement to avert strike

University of Wisconsin Health in Madison, nurses and the union that seeks to collectively bargain on their behalf have reached an agreement to avert a planned strike, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The parties reached the agreement as nurses were prepared to strike from 7 a.m. Sept. 13 to 7 a.m. Sept. 16. Representatives from UW Health, Service Employees International Union Healthcare Wisconsin and  Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced the deal Sept 12 following mediation by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission and talks at the governor's mansion. 

"My message was quite clear — that the people of Wisconsin expect everybody to work together for the best of everyone," Mr. Evers said, according to the Wisconsin Examiner. "But it was just important to bring people together, and to have them communicate directly with each other. And it worked well." 

UW Health nurses voted overwhelmingly Aug. 24 to strike and gave their official strike notice to the administration at UW Health earlier this month. They said they planned to strike for quality patient care, safe staffing and recognition of their union.

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.

Under the new agreement, the union will cancel the planned strike and refrain from any further strikes until the conclusion of a regulatory/legal process to review whether UW Health is covered by the Wisconsin Peace Act and can collectively bargain with SEIU, according to a statement shared with Becker's. In exchange, UW Health has agreed to engage in a good faith, nonbinding "meet and discuss" process with the union while any court proceedings regarding the collective bargaining issue are pending. 

The statement also says the union and UW Health will jointly petition the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission for a ruling on whether the Wisconsin Peace Act applies to the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic Authority.

Additionally, the union and UW Health "retain full rights to pursue further clarification through the courts, including through a direct petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court," according to the statement. 

Rulings from courts and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission will determine any further steps. 

This story was updated at 4:18 p.m. CT on Sept. 12. 


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