For many decades, UW Health nurses had a strong union, but in 2014 the administration used Scott Walker’s Act 10 as an excuse and refused to negotiate a new contract. In 2019, a strong majority of us began organizing to regain our union.
Today, hundreds of UW nurses are becoming union members again and – for the first time in almost a decade – are meeting as a union with top administrators through a Meet & Discuss process to solve critical issues including safe staffing, retention and nurse well-being. Through our united action, we won the largest wage increases since our last union contract ended, and established a peer support process to ensure fairness during disciplinary hearings.
We are proud to be at the forefront of a resurgent movement of working people uniting across race and industries to win Unions For All.
Why have UW nurses fought so passionately for our union?
We’ve fought to form our union because we know that with a united voice we can advocate effectively for ourselves, our families, our patients and our community. UW nurses were previously members of our union, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, and we had an exceptional union contract that helped ensure we were fairly compensated, had good benefits, and could provide the highest quality care. But in 2014 UW Health stopped recognizing our union and proceeded to implement dozens of cuts.
So in 2019, a strong majority of nurses signed cards calling on the administration to recognize our union. In September of 2022, after hundreds of us voted to go on strike, we reached a groundbreaking agreement with the administration that re-established our union voice at UW Health. Now, for the first time since 2014, we’re signing up to be union members and are engaging directly with the administration as a union in Meet & Discuss sessions to make critical improvements to our wages, staffing levels, and retention.
What is our “Platform for Quality Care”?
After we won the agreement with UW Health, we filled out surveys about the problems we’re facing at work and our top priorities for solutions. From those survey results, we created our “Platform for Quality Care” which we presented to management in our first Meet & Discuss session. Our Platform includes key improvements in the following areas:
- Wages and compensation
- Retention and recruitment
- Workplace safety
- Nurse wellness
Why is it crucial for ALL of us to become union members?
Our power comes from our unity and our collective action, not from a government agency, laws or the courts. UW Health is closely watching how many nurses sign up to become members. So the more of us who join, the more seriously the administration will take us in Meet & Discuss, and the more we will win.
What is the agreement between UW nurses and the administration?
The agreement with the administration contains the following provisions:
- UW Health and our union “intend to work together to address critical challenges and issues facing the nursing profession at UWHCA in order to promote the highest quality of patient care, retention and recruitment of skilled professional nurses, and highest job satisfaction of UWHCA registered nurses.”
- We have the right to join SEIU Wisconsin and become members.
- We are empowered to engage with the administration in a Meet & Discuss process to raise the full range of issues and solutions we want.
- Management recognizes our right to self-organization, participation in our union and union activity.
- Management is working with us toward a renewed "peer support" process for disciplinary actions.
- We established a process for determining if we can achieve full collective bargaining rights, which we are pursuing through three different avenues: 1) we will be appealing the recent opinion by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission; 2) we have filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board; and 3) voluntary
What exactly is a union?
A union is a group of employees who unite together to gain the strongest voice in their workplace. We use our strength in numbers to advocate for our common interests.Without a union, management has the ultimate power over everything related to our jobs. But with our union, we can sit down with the administration to discuss improvements in our wages, benefits and working conditions. In other words, our union means having a seat at the table. We are the experts who actually provide patient care everyday, so it’s imperative that we have a real say in our work, our lives and how we deliver care.
Why is the administration resistant to us having a union?
It all comes down to power. When nurses have a union, we share decision-making power with the administration and that’s hard for them to accept at first. But just like nurses around the country have shown, with our union we can have a more productive relationship with the administration built on mutual respect, communication and cooperatively solving problems.
Have nurses won improvements after forming a union with SEIU?
YES. More than 80,000 RNs across the U.S. — and one million total healthcare professionals — belong to SEIU, the largest and most effective healthcare union in America. SEIU nurses at hundreds of hospitals across the country, including many academic medical centers, have won major standards such as:
- A strong voice in safe staffing, including in many cases specific ratios by department.
- Compensation that includes a fair payscale with annual step increases to reward years of experience, in addition to annual cost-of-living raises.
- Greater consistency, communication and transparency in setting policies.
- Fair and flexible scheduling.
- No-cost or low-cost continuing education.
- Differentials that recognize higher levels of certification.
- Expanded paid time off.
- Affordable healthcare benefits for employees, spouses and children.
- Some of the best pensions in the country.
- Representation on the job to solve problems and ensure nurses’ rights are respected.
- Discipline applied fairly and only with just cause, with a neutral arbitrator to make final decisions, so nurses can advocate for our patients without fear of retaliation.
- Nursing practice committees that give RNs a real say in patient care.
What’s the difference between Shared Governance and a union?
Within the Shared Governance structure, the ultimate decision-making authority and control are held by the administration. They set the agenda and scope of the conversation, and have the final say in all matters. With a union, management shares the decision-making process with nurses. We want to keep positive aspects of Shared Governance, and also have an independent union nurse voice to hold management accountable for making concrete improvements that are our priorities.