UIHC caregivers union asks Reynolds to call on regents to increase wages

The SEIU 199 union is asking the governor to provide a statement that rewards the hospital’s staff for their work during the pandemic.


Tate Hildyard

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are seen on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

Rachel Schilke, News Editor

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics caregivers union is seeking a written statement from Gov. Kim Reynolds praising hospital staff’s work during the pandemic, hoping this will urge the state Board of Regents to increase their wages.

During potentially the last bargaining meeting between the regents and the SEIU 199 union on Thursday, UIHC Senior Physical Therapist Barb Stanerson said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that hospital staff asked the UIHC administration to sit down with them and work on a partnership to discuss employee issues, instead of all of the decisions being made for them.

“We accepted that it can’t be in a contract,” Stanerson said, “…but we just wanted it to be in writing that they acknowledge that we need to work on a partnership with the administration to our labor management group.”

Stanerson said the group also discussed the regents’ decision to increase wages by 1.3 percent. As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the union originally asked for a 5 percent increase, but the regents counter-offered with a 1.3 percent increase.

“It’s very discouraging,” she said. “We don’t want to just focus on the money, but after going through what the hospital has gone through during the pandemic, and then only being told a 1.3 percent raise, there’s just such a disconnect there.”

In Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address in January, she thanked Iowa’s health care workers for their dedication and commitment during the pandemic.

“[Y]ou worked some of the longest hours, in the most uncertain conditions,” Reynolds said. “Your actions saved lives. Your spirit inspired us… We cannot sufficiently express our gratitude, but we will try.”

Stanerson said she is frustrated with Reynolds, as she appears to be patting hospital workers on the back in one instance, and then hitting the hospital staff with a small wage increase in another.

“The 1.3 percent wage increase is the minimum, that’s all they have to give us,” she said. “The staff here has been giving 110 percent, they’ve been going way behind the bare minimum during this pandemic. Nurses have been staying with patients when their family can’t be there, so they don’t die alone.”

“Gov. Reynolds has said she wants to thank Iowa’s caregivers for their dedication and commitment during the pandemic,” President of SEIU Local 199 Cathy Glasson said in a press release. “There is no better way to honor their service than by making sure that the Regents she appoints settle a fair contract.”

As previously reported by The DI, the only mandatory negotiation topic when it comes to collective bargaining is wages, according to a 2017 law. Stanerson said they are working to try to get back to some of the things they had in their contract prior to the change in law.

According to Stanerson, there was a grievance procedure within the 2017 law where employees could discuss overtime and transfers. Now, she said, it is going to be a challenge to get those elements back into the contract.

“That’s a long way down the road but we’re not done working,” she said. “We are going to keep working and we’re going to be pushing…it’s going to be a battle.”