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WFNHP Applauds Catholic Healthcare-Labor Agreement Providing Guidance for Union Organizing

For Immediate Release          Contact: Candice Owley
June 22, 2009                            Office:  414-475-6065, ext. 21,  Cell: 414-899-7070

Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Applauds Catholic Healthcare-Labor Agreement Providing Guidance for Union Organizing

MILWAUKEE, Wis.--A joint document that offers guidelines for labor organizing in Catholic hospitals, was released June 22nd by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB). This marks an unprecedented and giant step forward in positive labor-management relations and creates a fair and balanced process for workers to choose whether or not to form a union; according to the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (WFNHP).

The document, "Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions," comes after more than a decade of talks between unions representing healthcare workers and Catholic Health Care employers. The discussion and document spell out how to create and maintain a workplace environment that allows workers considering forming a union to do so in a coercion-free atmosphere in keeping with Catholic social teachings.

"It was an amazing yet humbling experience to represent the labor movement in the talks with Catholic Health Care and the Bishops," said Candice Owley, a registered nurse, president of the WFNHP and chairperson of AFT's national healthcare division, the parent organization of WFNHP. Owley was one of four national labor leaders that participated in the talks. "Although we came to the table with differing perspectives, the unions and Catholic Health Care reached common cause so that the workers, patients, and communities we serve will be the true beneficiaries. The Bishops and Catholic Health Care showed extraordinary leadership in shaping this document, which gives guidance that will prevent conflict, tension, and misinformation that can mire an organizing campaign. The process outlined will create an atmosphere where employees in Catholic healthcare facilities that adopt the guidelines will no longer face threats and intimidation when they consider forming a union."

The document offers seven principles for management and union representatives to follow to ensure employees can make an informed decision without undue influence or pressure from either side:


  • Respect. No negative campaigning by either side.
  • Equal Access to Information. Both employer and union representatives agree to an equal number of communications and have access to the same communications.
  • Truthful and Balanced Communications. No statements that give misleading impressions about the advantages or disadvantages of joining a union.
  • Pressure-Free Environment. No aggressive or coercive behavior.
  • Fair and Expeditious Process. Proceed in a timely manner without undue delays or legal haggling with a National Labor Relations Board-supervised election or other mutually agreed-upon mechanism.
  • Meaningful Enforcement of the Local Agreement. A "local agreement" set at the beginning of the organizing campaign would outline the specific rules and measurers that will be used to apply the principles. Enforcing the agreement can be done by a neutral third party or other means.
  • Honoring Employee Decisions. Neither employer nor union would attempt to reverse the outcome of the workers' decision on whether or not to unionize.


The WFNHP represents 3,000 nurses and healthcare workers in Wisconsin, many of whom work in Catholic healthcare facilities.

A Union of Professionals