MADISON, Wis., Sept. 2, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- On Friday, Sept. 2, nurses gave UW Health an official advanced notice of their strike for quality patient care, safe staffing, and recognition of their union.
On Labor Day, they will hold a press conference at the Madison LaborFest, where they will emphasize their need for a union voice on the job to solve the long-term, systemic crisis of understaffing, turnover, cuts, and burnout, which have been aggravated by the pandemic.
The press conference will be livestreamed on the SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin Facebook page, www.facebook.com/SEIUHCWI.
"I'm striking to take a stand for quality patient care for my community and the well-being of frontline nurses," said Amanda Klinge, a six-year registered nurse in the orthopedic trauma unit at UW Health. "When my nurse colleagues and I see potentially preventable patient care problems occur day after day because of extreme understaffing, it is damaging to our psyche and our very soul. This is not how our healthcare system should be run, and we refuse to accept this as the 'new normal.'"
On Aug. 24, hundreds of UW nurses voted by 99% to strike. The strike is set to begin at 7 a.m. Sept. 13 and end at 7 a.m. Sept. 16. However, nurses are leaving the door open for dialogue, and the responsibility is on the UW Health Board and administration to come to the table and recognize their union in order to avoid the imminent strike. The purpose of the advanced notice is to ensure patient safety by allowing UW Health to make preparations such as hiring temporary staff.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, working people across industries from coast to coast have risen up to demand unions for all, respect, protections, and fair pay. They've been fighting together to check corporate power, to prioritize people over profits, and to ensure that every working person has the right to join a union no matter where they work or what they look like. And now, UW nurses who have sacrificed on the front lines for the last three years are at the forefront of a resurgent movement of healthcare workers throughout the country.
Dozens of elected officials and community leaders have called on UW Health to recognize the nurses' union. The UW nurses' press conference is taking place after Pres. Biden gives a major Labor Day address in Milwaukee supporting workers' rights to join unions.
The strong majority of UW nurses have been calling for recognition of their union for nearly three years so they can advocate for their patients, their community, and themselves. Over 1,500 nurses have signed cards saying they want a union, and the size of the union would be about 2,600.
UW nurses once were members of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, but when their last union contract expired in 2014, executives used Wisconsin Act 10 as an excuse not to negotiate a new agreement. The administration then implemented dozens of harmful cuts, including to nurses' staffing levels, health insurance, and continuing education benefits, resulting in severe difficulties with recruitment and retention.
In June, the Wisconsin Attorney General agreed with top labor law experts from around the country and officially declared once and for all that UW Health can recognize the nurses' union. Instead of engaging in dialogue with nurses, the UW Health administration launched a toxic anti-union campaign including threats to fire nurses for their union activity. Nurses fear that these scare tactics further undermine patient care by increasing stress on staff, which could lead to more turnover.
SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin is the state's largest and fastest-growing healthcare workers union, representing thousands of hospital, nursing home, home care, and social service workers united to win quality care and good jobs for all.
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SOURCE SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin