Madison Common Council to Hold Hearing and Vote on Resolution Supporting a Union Voice for UW Health Nurses and Calling for a Fair Union Election to Ensure Quality Patient Care
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Madison Common Council to Hold Hearing and Vote on Resolution Supporting a Union Voice for UW Health Nurses and Calling for a Fair Union Election to Ensure Quality Patient Care

Frontline nurses will testify in support of the resolution, describing their firsthand experiences and why they need a union voice to help solve the long-term systemic crisis at UW Health

WHAT: Madison Common Council hearing and vote on resolution supporting a union voice for UW Health nurses, with testimony by frontline RNs

WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 21 - Common Council general meeting begins at 6:30 pm, exact time of resolution hearing to be determined

WHERE: Hearing will held online and accessible on the Madison City Channel website: https://media.cityofmadison.com/mediasite/showcase, on the City of Madison YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/CityofMadison, on Spectrum channel 994, AT&T U-Verse channel 99. One can register for the virtual meeting at https://www.cityofmadison.com/MeetingRegistration .

Madison, WI- As UW Health nurses continue to struggle with another COVID surge and overwhelming patient loads, the Madison Common Council will hold an online hearing and vote on a resolution supporting a union voice for UW Health nurses, and calling for a fair union election to ensure quality patient care. At the hearing, frontline nurses will testify in favor of the resolution, describing their firsthand experiences and why they need a union voice to help solve the long-term, systemic crisis at UW Health which includes understaffing; inadequate safety protocols, training and continuing education; benefit cuts; a lack of transparency and communication from management; and ongoing trouble with nurse recruitment and retention.

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Common Council Alders Lindsay Lemmer and Patrick Heck are the lead sponsors of the resolution, which is also currently cosponsored by Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway; Common Council President Syed Abbas; Common Council Vice President Arvina Martin; and Alders Brian Benford, Grant Foster, Michael Verveer, Tag Evers, Yannette Figueroa Cole, and Regina M. Vidaver.

The resolution states that during the pandemic, UW Health nurses "have been on the front lines, risking their lives and their families' lives to provide quality, compassionate patient care" and that "COVID-19 has intensified deep-seated, systemic problems in the UW Health system which have been worsening for years, ever since the administration stopped recognizing the nurses' union.

"This past year and a half has been incredibly challenging for me and my colleagues," said Alex Dudek, a registered nurse in the COVID intensive care unit at UW Hospital. "Now, we're dealing with another COVID surge in addition to the overwhelming flood of patients with health conditions that have been worsened by the pandemic. We have been stretched thin to care for more and more patients because we just don't have enough staff and resources. We are still struggling with trauma, exhaustion and burnout, and we're beginning to feel the long-term effects. As a result, I've witnessed great nurses leaving the bedside and the field altogether. COVID is not the root cause of a lot of these problems. It has simply aggravated deep-seated issues which have been steadily worsening at UW Health for years. Bedside nurses - those of us with the medical expertise who actually provide patient care - must have a union voice for ourselves and our patients."

When announcing the resolution at a recent press conference, Alders Lemmer and Heck raised the alarm that Wisconsin is facing a severe nursing shortage of over 10,000 empty positions by the end of this decade, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The resolution declares that "in order to address the growing problems at UW Health, help solve the nursing shortage, and ensure the highest quality patient care, nurses must be able to have an independent voice through a union."

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For decades, UW Health nurses had a strong union and a solid contract, and were able to work collaboratively with management to set the standards for excellence in medical care. But after the passage of the anti-worker Wisconsin law Act 10, the UW Health administration failed to negotiate a new agreement with the nurses' union when their contract expired in 2014.

Since then, nurses have been struggling with cuts, deteriorating staff-to-patient ratios, and other growing problems, and have had no independent voice to address these issues. The strong majority of nurses signed cards in 2019 expressing their desire to unionize, and presented them to the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority (UWHCA) board, but the board refused to recognize their union.

Now, the foremost labor attorneys in the state have thoroughly reviewed current law, including Act 10, and determined conclusively that UW Health can voluntarily recognize nurses as a union and start negotiating a new contract immediately. The resolution states that "it is a moral imperative for UW Health nurses to have the freedom to decide on their own whether to unionize, just like other nurses in Madison, so they can advocate effectively for themselves, their families, their patients and our community." The resolution goes on to urge "the UWHCA board and UW Health administration to work collaboratively with nurses and their representatives to develop a fair union election process without delay."

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Filed Under: Government, City

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