The stories we tell about what the law means are crucial to how we operate within our society- both as individuals and collectively. The story of 2011 Act 10 and the decade of political divineness that followed has been told from many angles. From Patrick Marley and Jason Stein’s book More Than They Bargained For to UW Professor Kathy Kramer’s research in The Politics of Resentment, the academic and political field has analyzed the events and fall out ad nauseum. And still today, one of the biggest impacts of that challenging time is Wisconsin workers still struggling to form a union and bargain collectively with their employers.
Law Forward is proud to work with many unions in Wisconsin. We understand the critical role they play in a healthy and thriving democracy. The ability to collectively bargain is at the heart of an economy that supports our families and communities. Last week, Law Forward had the opportunity to weigh in on the important legal issues that would allow nurses at the University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics to form a union.
2011’s Act 10 disrupted and displaced decades of thoughtful and reasoned legal development in Wisconsin. During the second half of the twentieth century, and under Wisconsin’s first-in-the-nation legal structure, public sector labor and management came together to negotiate, protecting workers’ rights while also ensuring stability in government operations. Act 10 did away with all that, and the consequences of that law reverberate still.
Last week, Law Forward submitted a public comment to Attorney General Kaul about one of those consequences—the ability of nurses at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals & Clinics to form a union and seek recognition. Because UW nurses are not among the public employees who are not able to collectively bargain after Act 10, and because the law only eliminated the Hospital & Clinic’s duty to engage in bargaining, we believe that the parties are permitted to enter into these negotiations voluntarily. We encourage the Attorney General to issue a formal opinion and hope that the UW nursing staff is able to work with their employer to address serious issues affecting not only them as employees, but the health and well-being of their patients and the larger community.