University of Wisconsin nurses seek union recognition from health system

Nurses at Madison-based University of Wisconsin Health have formed a union and are asking for voluntary recognition from the health system.

The news came Dec. 19 via a news release from SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.

Union leaders said nurses lost their representation when their contract expired in 2014 as part of former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10, which was signed into law in 2011.

Since then, the nurses contend that various patient safety and advocacy concerns have arisen, prompting them to build majority support for a union and present a letter to the health system board outlining their priorities and demands.

"Our movement is essentially an uprising by UW nurses facing unacceptable changes to staffing levels and nurse-to-patient ratios," Chuck Linsenmeyer, a University of Wisconsin nurse, said in a news release. "There is a widespread sense among nurses in our hospital system of being unsupported by the hospital administration to provide that kind of nursing care that our patients expect and deserve."

If UW Health recognizes the union, nurses would meet and confer with the health system board over staffing best practices, nurse-to-patient ratios and the right to a union representative, advocate or witness during a potential disciplinary discussion, among other subjects, according to SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin. This recognition could occur without an election.

In response to the nurses' call for voluntary union recognition, UW Health pointed to existing employee engagement avenues.

Since 2014, the health system "has successfully implemented many processes to obtain direct employee feedback, such as forums, the Employee Advisory Council and employee surveys," the health system told Becker's Hospital Review in an emailed statement. "These avenues have provided valuable feedback that has helped shape the decisions and direction of the organization, enabling us to provide remarkable healthcare to our patients."

UW Health added that it "will continue to support our robust existing system of employee and nurse engagement, through which UW Health has earned the designation of Magnet nursing status."

 

More articles on human resources:
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Ascension Genesys Hospital, Teamsters sued over nurse's union dues deductions
Nurses on verge of 'largest healthcare strike in recent history' in Washington state, union says

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