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Meriter nurses ratify tentative agreement between employer and union
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Meriter nurses ratify tentative agreement between employer and union

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After weeks of bargaining, nurses at UnityPoint Health–Meriter have voted to ratify a two-year agreement.

The 850 nurses represented by SEIU Healthcare voted almost unanimously Saturday to approve the contract, narrowly avoiding a strike that was supported by more than 2,500 people who pledged not to cross the picket line.

The Blue Angels flew high above Dallas, Texas, on May 6 to salute health care workers. Pilots had ideal flying conditions to mark National Nurses Day.

“This has been a difficult year for so many, and we appreciate how both sides came together to reach a fair agreement and look forward to collaboratively implementing this contract together,” Suzi Kossel, a registered nurse in the NICU at Meriter Hospital and member of the bargaining committee, said in a statement Sunday.

Nurses secured a number of key policy changes, including some directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the contract:

  • Expanded and fully replenished paid time off for nurses who used up their leave during the pandemic — up to 60 hours of additional paid time off to use this year to rest and recover and heal.
  • Improved extra shift pay to better value the sacrifices nurses make when they stay past their scheduled hours or come in on short notice on their days off.
  • Improved base pay to help recruit and retain more staff and stop chronic nursing shortages.
  • A greater voice in decisions during current and future public health crises so that nurses can protect themselves and their patients.
  • “We are extremely pleased with this outcome,” Sherry Casali, UnityPoint Health–Meriter chief nursing executive, said. “Our nurses are our lifeblood, and we’ve always been committed to supporting them. This new contract only furthers that promise.”

The agreement also increase nurse wages as well as earned sick and vacation time. Meriter will continue to offer nurses full health and dental benefits, tuition assistance, child care support and a wellness program that includes access to mental health services.

As a part of the ratification, the union has agreed to withdraw workforce allegations submitted to the National Labor Relations Board, which Meriter called vague, untrue and without merit.


6 lives disrupted: How COVID-19 changed Madison

6 lives disrupted: How COVID-19 changed Madison

The torrent of disruption to daily life over the past year has been inescapable.

Calendar squares filled with weddings and events cleared. Vacations vanished. Schools shuttered and hand sanitizer was in short supply. We learned new words, like social distancing, herd immunity and doomscrolling. 

COVID-19 affected every person, every family. It's taken nearly 6,500 Wisconsinites from us, including 278 in Dane County.

Here are six stories from people whose lives and jobs changed over the past year.

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“Reporting the death counts out day after day was draining,” she said. “It felt like I was announcing a funeral every day.”

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"I was getting my work done from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day," she said.

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Rev. Marcus Allen knew what bringing everyone together could do for their spiritual and mental health. But each time he considered reopening the church, COVID-19 cases surged.

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"We’re used to taking whatever comes through the door," said nurse Maria Hanson, who started journaling about the pandemic soon after treating the patient.

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"It’s a risk vs. reward thing and I risk my life to save others," said Brandon Jones, who always worried about bringing the virus home to his wife and two kids.

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“Usually a funeral is a major step in understanding that a life was lived and the person is now gone,” he said. “If families don’t get that, it’s just really hard.”

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