August 18, 2023
From Fight Back News

Milwaukee, WI – On the morning of August 14, 15 workers at Ascension Saint Francis Hospital (SFH) represented by the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (WFNHP) Local 5000 marched to the top hospital administrator’s office with a stack of 144 individual grievances. Administration denied the union workers at SFH a bonus while providing it to the non-bargaining unit workers at the hospital and to workers at all of the other non-union Ascension hospitals in the state. 

Union leadership was told by administration that workers at Saint Francis will not be receiving the raise because it is not in their union contract. The truth is that there is language in the contract that explicitly states that management can give incentives to staff at any time. Saint Francis Hospital is the only Ascension facility in the Milwaukee area that is represented by a union.

“This is straightforward discrimination against our union. Nothing in our contract prevents them from giving us this bonus, so they’re making a deliberate choice not to,” stated Nadezhda Young, chief steward and emergency room technician.

This led to union leadership uniting all rank and file to grieve the issue and attend the labor management meeting which was supposed to be held August 14 at 9:30 a.m. However, administration canceled this meeting 20 minutes before it was set to go on. With a line of members out the door waiting to attend the meeting, rank-and-file union representatives led the membership to the administrator’s office.

Management alerted security prior to the cancellation and had them surveil the membership as they stormed to his office. He claims to have canceled the meeting because he had “more important things to do.” With a group of workers surrounding him shaking their heads in disbelief, Chief Steward Nadezhda Young and Nurse’s Chapter President Tracey Schwerdtfeger handed him the stack of 144 grievances representing over half the staff of the hospital.

Union leadership is now awaiting on how they will advance the struggle with their membership, depending on how hospital administration responds. The workers at Saint Francis hospital will not tolerate union busting and will use their right to concerted activity to get their demands met.

Mikaela Wojciechowski, vice president of the Registered Nurses Chapter, expressed the importance of the union membership taking a stand for their bonus. “Where there is unity, there is progress. You can’t score a goal without the help of a team. If you want a victory, we all need to come together, support each other, and most importantly, fight together. This fight is not only for our staff members, but for our community as a whole.”