UW Health nurses to go on strike as push for union continues

MADISON, Wis. — After three years of fighting to unionize, UW Nurses are going on strike. The strike will begin at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, September 13, and run through Friday, September 16th at 7 a.m. 

For many UW Health nurses, after years of trying to address these issues, they didn’t know what else to do but strike.

“We need our voice to be heard,” said Mary Jorgensen, a UW Health RN. 99% of nurses voted for a union but, according to those nurses, UW won’t engage in talks to renew, citing Act 10. After losing their union in 2014, rapid changes followed such as cuts in pay and benefits, and training.

“New nurses would start with one patient, and then maybe a week late move on to caring for two, they had time to learn, and their were enough nurses to train new folks,” Shari Signer, a longtime UW Health RN said. “Now our new nurses are thrown in with a full load, and if they need help odds are they have no one to turn to other than another new nurse”.

The lack of staffing, training and resources, nurses say, directly effects the care there able to give.

“You haven’t taken care of your staff, and that means you aren’t taking care of your patients,” Signer said.

The nurses said under current conditions, they aren’t equipped to best serve their patients.

“This strike is about taking care of our patients, but we aren’t given the tools to do that job,” Jorgensen said. “Administration has cut staffing, taken away proper training, we are exhausted making us prone to mistake, patients deserve better.”

Until 2014, UW Health Nurses were unionized. Citing Act 10, UW Health opted to not renew the union contract. When they were unionized, nurses said, it made a world of difference.

“Things weren’t perfect, but we had language on staffing ratios, we had a grievance procedure,” Jack Trudell, a UW Health Nurse who vividly remembers the day Act 10 was enacted said. “So if someone stood up and said this isn’t safe, or I don’t feel safe doing this … we brought the full force of our grievance procedure”.

In response to News 3 Now’s request for comment, UW Health said the following:

“The planned work stoppage set for Sept. 13 to Sept. 16 for a group of nurses remains disappointing. While SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin is aware of avenues to determine if collective bargaining at UW Health is legal, the choice to strike will not answer those legal questions. UW Health will continue to focus on its top priority; high-quality care and safety for patients and staff.”