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‘Today is a big step forward’: Agreement reached to avoid UW Health nurses strike

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Evers at UW Health press conference

MADISON (WKOW) — With a day left before UW Health nurses were set to start striking for three days, officials announced an agreement averting the strike altogether.

Gov. Tony Evers, along with Dr. Alan Kaplan, CEO, UW Health, and UW Health Nurse Colin Gillis met Monday to speak about the agreement.

Tony Evers started the press conference by explaining that mediation between UW Health and its nurses began Wednesday through the state employment relations commission. After the third day, Evers invited all parties to the Executive Residence to continue working.

“I felt it was important to have both sides meet together and traditional mediation doesn’t always do that,” Evers said. “I just made an offer to come to the residence, sit down together. And my message was quite clear that people in Wisconsin expect everybody to work together for the best of everyone. And no one wants to strike, no one should want to strike. And they had a few days to get it done, there was obviously a time factor here.”

Evers said work continued on mediation until Sunday. He said eventually all parties agreed on a solution. 

“I could not be prouder to have been part of the mediation of this process,” Evers said. “And to work with UW Health, SEIU and the nurses at UW hospitals and clinics to find a solution that gives greater voice to our nurses in the workplace, strengthens the relationship and communication between workers and management and ultimately assure the strike would be averted.”

Dr. Kaplan said he’s “extremely pleased” to avoid the work stoppage.

He said the agreement “sets forth a path” to answer a decades long legal question: is UW Health able to recognize a union?

“This not only averts the immediate work stoppage but also future work stoppages,” Kaplan said.

Still, it will take time to answer this question. First, UW Health has to determine with state agencies whether it is or is not covered by the state’s Employment Peace Act. Then hospital administration will work on answering questions about voluntary recognition of a union.

Kaplan further explained that the agreement allows nurses involved in the “organizing effort” to work with leadership.

Collin Gilas, a UW Health nurse for the last five years, called Monday a “testament to strength and determination that nurses bring” to everything they do.

“Today we celebrate a big step forward,” Gilas said. “We’re excited to work together with the UW administration to solve the challenges we’re facing and make sure UW Health is the very best place to work and receive care.”

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