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Silencing Nurses in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Nurses Association president translates collective bargaining debate.

Last month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced plans to repair a $3.6 billion budget shortfall by eliminating collective bargaining for public employee unions. Public workers, including nurses, would be required to cover 12 percent of their own health insurance premiums and 5.8 percent of their pension. Under Walker's proposal in SS SB11, collective bargaining would be limited to discussions over base pay, not other compensation measures. The bill would repeal the authority of home healthcare workers under the Medicaid program to collectively bargain.

Nurses working in Wisconsin hospitals will not be affected by these changes. Gina Dennick Champion, MPH, MSN, RN, president of the Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA), estimated that 5,000 non-acute care nurses would be affected. Listen to the audio version of the interview below.

Join in on the discussion

Legislative Process Overhaul
Although Dennick Champion predicts wages and benefits for nurses will decrease as a result of the legislation, WNA's most pressing concern is the fast tracking reversal of a 50-year-old legislative state statue covering collective bargaining rights for public employees.

"There wasn't ample time for unions and individuals to be able to share with their legislator why this was pulled out of a budget bill," she said. "Budgets are about numbers where the legislative process should be working with policy."
Dennick Champion expressed concern in the fact that SS SB11 assigns authority for determining the future benefits and coverage requirements to the Department of Health Services, a body of unelected individuals.

Light at the End of the Tunnel
Looking beyond SS SB11, which is predicted to pass with few concessions, Dennick Champion sees some growth opportunities for nurses.

"If we could get some dollars in preventive or primary care, there are opportunities for us," she said. "If we could fund those positions, we could really help grow healthy communities. Nursing is going to have to step up and get involved in patient-centered care."

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  Last Post: January 9, 2012 | View Comments(5)

So typical to wage the war against budget problems on the backs of the hard working persons in the state.

Looks like the first RN who replied must have a very secure future and does not need the money that a pension provides and has abundant money for healthcare costs.


Maria ,  RNJanuary 09, 2012
Chicago, IL

We stand behind Governor Scott. What a man to hold off the immature behavior of those paid, violent strikers. Here in California-- where our state is ALSO broke, our state employed friends may have 2 or more retirement checks, huge amount of $$ to pay someone to stay home, or work. Shocked to hear of such abuses--our RN's in county hospitals make nice fat, checks while private medicine will have no retirement benefits, even though we are forced to pay union dues. Robbery.

Marti Gates,  RNMarch 22, 2011

First I would like to say that nurses in WI will be affected. I am a RN at University of WI, and eventhough we are not state employees, we are under to "authority" of the state. This means that what applied to all state employees applies to us too. Seems a little strange that since the Hospital is independant and the hospital pays for our insurance and pension contributions how putting us in the mix will help the states budget. As it stood w/the last proposal my medical insurance would increase from $89/mo to over $750/mo and I would have to pay roughly $309/mo to my pension. I don't know about anybody else, but I cannot afford to lose $1000/mo. I hope the banks are ready for all the foreclosures that will come.

robyn novak,  RN,  UW hospitalMarch 11, 2011
madiaon, WI

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