Two Madison Common Council Alders sounded the alarm today, warning that UW Health has launched an “immoral and aggressive anti-union campaign against nurses,”
Alders Lindsay Lemmer and Patrick Heck say that they recently learned that UW Health is working with anti-union consultants known for their scare tactics.
The UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority board, which oversees UW Health, maintains that Act 10 prevents them from recognizing a nurses union agreement. That’s a claim that some labor leaders reject.
Nurses say that they are still able to voluntarily recognize the union at any time.
Amanda Klinge is a nurse at UW Health.
“They can absolutely recognize us and our union, and instead they are looking at an anti-union campaign. We have staff members who have been told by security that if they don’t leave, which they are not on hospital property when they are told this, that they will be calling the police, which makes it harder for us to do our jobs when we’re at the hospital because we’re stressed about all these things. And these resources we would like to see spent on staffing retention and staffing matrixes rather than trying to suppress us from having an equal voice, ” said Klinge.
A campaign to form a union has been ongoing since winter of 2019. UW Health nurses had a union until 2014 – after Act 10 restricted collective bargaining rights and the nurses’ contract expired
In September, the Madison Common Council approved a resolution called for “UW Health to halt anti-union activity, and to hold a fair and fast union election.
Alder Heck says that UW Health has done just the opposite of that, and that they have not communicated any acknowledgement of the Council’s resolution.
“We received no communication, and I don’t believe the nurses received any communication about that resolution the common council passed,” said Heck.
The same resolution explicitly states that according to state attorneys, neither Act 10 nor any other state law stops UW Health from negotiating with nurses.
When asked for comment on the proposed resolution in September, a UW Health spokesperson wrote in an email to W-O-R-T that,
“UW Health leaders and staff nurses work together directly and collaboratively to meet the needs of our patients while following all state and federal laws related to our workforce. Our robust system of nursing shared governance is part of what makes UW Health a great place to work and a place our patients receive truly remarkable care.”
Alders Lemmer and Heck are calling on UW Health to focus on recognizing the union and solving other issues at UW Health.
The nurses and the alders state that UW Health has taken several different anti-union measures, including calling the police on nurses handing out literature outside of hospital property. Nurse Klinge explains,
“We are aware of the two agencies, and so far it has been asking security to take down the flier that we post in places we are allowed to post them, such as break rooms, and telling people that are not on the property, but on the sidewalk, that they will call the police, and in fact they have at times, and the police stand with us, the time they did come out anyway. And then also there have been circumstances where people have been pulled into managers offices to discuss this. We also had a social media campaign, and one of our colleagues was told by their manager they needed to take the post down, even though it was their own opinion. So mostly things like that, but again, those resources we would like to see put into patient care, staffing retention, and our community instead, ” said Klinge.
Alder Heck says that, on top of simply recognizing the union, the nurses have many concerns that they simply want addressed.
“Well I think that it’s clear that nursing in general is either in crisis or approaching crisis because of nursing shortages. And they want to work together with UW Health management to address this problem and also to address their working conditions, which have worsened during the pandemic, ” said Heck.
Photo Courtesy: Vladimir Fedotov / UNSPLASH