‘That is within our legal rights’: Nurses union counters hospital’s claim that Act 10 bars it from recognizing union

News 3 Now found the answer lies in a gray area of the law

Nurses with UW Health are standing by their decision to unionize.

They said despite what the hospital board says, act 10 does not bar them from what they want.

“We were extremely disappointed with the response from the board and the hospital,” said Shari Signer, a general float nurse at the hospital.

She said the reasons the nurses organized and made their union public in the first place, such as less say in the process and decreased patient care, have not gone away.

Signer said there are high patient-nurse ratios, and patient care is sacrificed because of that.

“You don’t get time to sit down and talk to your patients who maybe just got diagnosed with cancer to see how they’re doing,” she said. “You don’t’ have time to provide the wound care that is needed.”

She and other members of the union met with the board at UW Health on Thursday. Signer said the board members did not ask for many questions to clarify what the nurses wanted.

In a statement, UW Health said nurses are the cornerstone of patient care, but added the hospital cannot recognize the union as a representative.

“(The University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority), as a result of the 2011 Act 10 legislation, cannot engage in collective bargaining negotiations,” the statement said.

The nurses, their union and the union’s legal team say that’s not true.

“We have looked at it legally, and we do know that it is within our rights to ask the hospital and board to accept our request to meet and confer,” Signer said. “That is within our legal rights.”

UW Health declined to comment on the nurse’s response.

News 3 Now was unable to find a clear answers from lawyers and union experts on Friday. One lawyer said it is a “gray area,” and the answer might have to come from a court.

Signer couldn’t say whether it will get there, but she said she and others want change.

“We’re going to continue to do what we’re doing, get support from more nurses,” she said. “This has definitely helped to sort of fuel the fire.”