UW Hospital Workers With Expiring Contracts Look For Municipal Support


About 5,000 union workers at the University of Wisconsin Hospital with expiring contracts are seeking support from the Madison Common Council.

Tonight, the council takes up a measure backing union rights in the wake of Act 10, the 2011 law that restricts collective bargaining rights for nearly all public workers.

Act 10 will affect 3 unions at UW Hospital. One of them is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Ann Louise Tetreau, a nurse who has worked at UW Hospital for more than 30 years, is a SEIU member. She says unless the hospital decides to extend worker protections, they would be exempt from labor laws like the National Labor Relations Act that protect private-sector nurses.

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“We would be employees-at-will,” says Tetreau. “We will not be able to feel safe doing any collective activity asserting any kind of rights [or] speaking up for our patients concerns.”

Tetreau plans to attend tonight’s Madison Common Council meeting where a resolution by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin asks UW hospital administration to protect union rights.

“UW Hospital is the second largest employer in the city of Madison second only to the university,” says Tetreau. “For the Common Council to speak in support of this resolution is a step in the right direction of saying, ‘Madison is a great place to live, where we have a fair, level playing field [and] where we can speak up as employees.”

Governor Scott Walker cited the state deficit when presenting the budget that contained Act 10. UW Hospital administrators pointed out in a letter to the governor at the time that eliminating hospital union bargaining would have no fiscal impact on the state’s bottom line because the hospital receives no general purpose revenue.