UW Health reaches agreement with nurses and union leaders, averting strike

MADISON, Wis. — UW Health officials, nurses and union leaders reached a last-minute agreement Monday, averting a strike.

The groups had met Friday in an attempt to avoid the work stoppage, with Governor Evers at one point convening those involved for a meeting at the Governor’s mansion.

RELATED: UW Health officials, nurses meet at Governor’s mansion in bid to avert strike

The nurses and SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin had been calling for union recognition and were set to go on strike Tuesday.

Speaking at the Capitol, Evers said that both parties wanted to find a solution when mediations began last Wednesday.

“We came to a solution that all parties can agree on,” the governor said. “I cannot be prouder to have been part of this mediation.”

UW Health CEO Dr. Alan Kaplan said he was pleased to reach an agreement. He said that the hospital previously was not able to recognize the union due to Act 10, but now that may change.

“What we really care about is patients,” Kaplan said. “While we all agreed we have to work through to get legal clarification, we also agreed we want to take care of patients.”

The hospital did not formally recognize the union under the new agreement, Kaplan said, however, a pathway was been set up for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to decide if UW Health is covered under Wisconsin’s Employment Peace Act, which gives employees the right to form and join a union.

Both SEIU and UW Health will jointly petition the WERC under the agreement, and in exchange, the nurses will not go on strike until legal proceedings have concluded. Both parties will retain the right to appeal the WERC’s ruling to the court system, including to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Attorney General Josh Kaul wrote in an opinion earlier this year that the hospital does have statutory power to collectively bargain with nurses.

During pending court proceedings, UW Health and SEIU leaders will meet “to facilitate the open sharing of information.”