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With Contracts Ending, Unions Phasing Out At UW Hospital & Clinics

Union Leaders Blame Act 10 For Result

Hospital hallway
Ralf Heß (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Workers unions are ending at University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics — three years after state lawmakers passed a law restricting collective bargaining.

UW Hospital and Clinics is the second-largest employer in the Dane County area. The contract for roughly half its union workers ends on Monday. Two other union contracts have already expired and a fourth will end in January.

Dian Palmer, a nurse and president of union SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, said that the end of these contracts is a result of the Act 10 legislation. In 2011, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature ended collective bargaining for most state workers.

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“We are bound and determined to make sure that workers have a place and a say in their work environment. This legislation and this governor has basically (declared) war on workers, and very important health care workers,” she said.

Madison and county officials have urged UW Hospital administrators to continue to work with its employees. In November, officials created a transition plan that looked at staffing and boosted pay, in part to offset increased health and pension costs.

Jan Bultema, a senior vice president of human resources at UW Hospital & Clinics, said that administrators had to follow the law.

“Act 10 legally prohibits us from engaging in collective bargaining,” she said. “So with that, we wanted to comply with the law, but we wanted to further our strategic goal of best work and academic environment. We wanted to develop policies that were fair, consistent and affordable across the hospital.

The unions covered about 60 percent of UW Hospital & Clinics employees.