UW Health nurses file appeal to WERC ruling on union organization

UW Health East Madison Hospital
UW Health East Madison Hospital(UW Health)
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 3:56 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - UW Health nurses fighting to organize a union Thursday announced it had filed an appeal to a recent decision by the state’s labor relations board, which backed the health system’s stance that it is not required to recognize nurses’ efforts to organize if it does not want to.

The union looking to represent UW Health’s nurses, SEIU, described the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board decision as an “incorrect opinion.” The group also explained that the WERC opinion declared UW Health is not covered by the state Employment Peace Act, which makes the health system not legally required to engage in collective bargaining with the union.

SEIU argued that this goes against what Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and employment law experts have deemed, which was that UW Health does meet the definition of an “employer” under the Peace Act and is covered. The formal opinion released by Kaul in June concluded that the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority can choose to voluntarily engage in the collective bargaining process with its nurses. While Kaul said UWHCA could choose to engage in negotiations about wages or other employment conditions, he did not determine if they must do so.

“Regardless of WERC’s opinion, the groundbreaking agreement that we won in September empowers us with a union voice, and hundreds of us have been signing up to become union members,” a group of registered nurses said in a statement.

In a statement from UW Health, it said that following WERC’s decision, it petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Dec. 9 to decide once and for all whether the health system “is able to voluntarily recognize a union and collectively bargain.”

“If the high court accepts that position, it will necessarily address both that question and the one WERC has already resolved,” UW Health stated. “Both SEIU and UW Health have expressed a desire to obtain an expeditious and definitive answer to these questions. We believe that an immediate Supreme Court review would help achieve that desired outcome.”

The group of registered nurses said in their statement that they are meeting as a union with UW Health administration for the first time in almost a decade for a “Meet and Discuss” process and have proposed a plan for improvements in staffing, retention and nurse wellness.

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