Commission rules UW Health not required to recognize nurses union

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A setback for UW Health nurses looking to unionize -- the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission says state law prevents the group from being recognized as a union and also from bargaining a contract. 

In September, UW Health reached an agreement with the Service Employees International Union and avoided a strike.

We're told hundreds of nurses have signed up to become union members. Their goal is to improve working conditions and patient care. 

The nurses now plan to petition the relations commission and take the matter to the state Supreme Court.

UW Health registered nurses Mary Jorgensen, Colin Gillis and Sarah Langland released the following statement in response to the decision:

“The groundbreaking agreement that nurses won in September empowers us with a union voice, and through a ‘Meet and Discuss’ process we are currently working on urgent improvements in patient care, staffing and retention. Hundreds of us have already signed up to become union members and we are meeting directly with the administration to raise critical issues and create real solutions. The opinion by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) does not impact our union membership or the Meet and Discuss process at UW Health. While we respect WERC, we do not agree with its opinion that UW Health nurses are excluded from the Employment Peace Act. As the Wisconsin Attorney General and labor law experts have asserted, UW Health clearly meets the definition of ‘employer’ under the Act and is therefore covered. We will be appealing WERC’s decision through the courts and petitioning for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This is the first round in a multi-step process for nurses achieving collective bargaining rights, either through the courts, the NLRB, or through voluntary recognition by UW Health. UW nurses are at the forefront of a national movement of working people – Black, brown, AAPI, white, and indigenous – who are organizing across race, place, and industry for Unions For All workers, no exceptions. We are continuing to build our union and work collectively with the administration to ensure UW Health is the best place to work and receive care.”

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