Approximately 5,000 union members working at the University of Wisconsin Hospital say that they will be unprotected by federal labor laws unless the hospital opts to extend worker protections that guarantee employee rights. Three unions at the hospital are affected by Wisconsin Act 10 which was passed in 2011 and restricts collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Patients may also have reason to be concerned if UW Hospital workers are no longer protected. Union members say that reducing their status to that of an at-will employee could degrade hospital conditions and adversely affect patient care. They may be less likely to protest unsafe working conditions or voice their patient's concerns if they are no longer covered by legislation such as the National Labor Relations Act.
Laws often have unintended consequences, and it's unlikely that legislators intended to jeopardize hospital patients when they passed Act 10. However, stripping workers of their rights, in the public or private sector, will inevitably raise issues that must be weighed against any financial gain. Sometimes these decisions are not carefully thought out, and legal action may be necessary when workers have been unfairly deprived of their rights. In these cases an attorney experienced in labor relations law may be able to offer a strategy that works towards a resolution while safeguarding workers.
Source: Wisconsin Public Radio News, "UW Hospital Workers With Expiring Contracts Look For Municipal Support", Shamane Mills, July 16, 2013