Health care workers, UIHC set out to improve relationship with conversations facilitated by the Board of Regents

After three months of contract negotiations, the University of Iowa’s health care worker union is preparing to begin conversations with the UI Hospitals and Clinics to improve the workplace and patient care.


Grace Kreber

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics building front.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

Following the conclusion of contract negotiations, the Service Employees International Union 199 is gearing up for semi-monthly conversations with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics facilitated by the state Board of Regents.

After three months of collective bargaining, SEIU signed a contract approving a 1.3 percent annual pay increase for each union on March 12.

SEIU’s contact also ensures the union will have meetings with the regents and UIHC administration to discuss issues that are important to union members.

At the regents’ ratification meeting, Kristin Bauer, the regents’ associate counsel, said an increase in communication on the topic will be beneficial to everyone involved in the process.

“We’re going to try to facilitate these and have them on a more frequent basis,” Bauer said. “We think it will be helpful in the continuation of the communication and cooperation with the members of that union.”

SEIU President Cathy Glasson said the union plans to meet every other month with the regents but will ask to adjust to more or less frequent meetings if necessary.

In her experience, Glasson said these types of committees start with issues both UIHC and the union want to address to build trust and achieve some success. She said SEIU wants to start by discussing common issues before diving into more complex problems.

“We want to build a relationship with UIHC so that together we can tackle issues that we know affect the ability of our staff to provide quality care,” she said. “We know that the hospital is experiencing a shortage of nurses and other certain health care professionals and we want to make sure we’re in that discussion so we can help the problem of recruiting and retaining.”

Glasson said these conversations are not new but adding the regents into the committees is something she’s never seen before. She said there is room for a strong and solid relationship between the three entities, and this is a beneficial first step for all parties to build trust and communication.

RELATED: Regents approve collective bargaining agreements with UI unions

Regents’ Senior Communications Director Josh Lehman wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that UIHC is reinstating regular labor management meetings that include staff from UIHC, the regents, and the SEIU to ensure the partnership is successful.

“UIHC and the Board of Regents are committed to working collaboratively with SEIU leadership to identify important issues and find solutions that improve patient outcomes, maximize job satisfaction, and enhance overall hospital performance,” he wrote. “…These meetings are currently being scheduled.”

UIHC Public Relations Manager Laura Shoemaker said UIHC Director of Employee and Labor Relations Lisa Brewster is facilitating the conversation from the UI’s side.

Glasson said there is a lot of room in these conversations to grow and improve care at UIHC with the help of workers. She said the committee is planning to meet every other month, starting this March, but a date has not been released.

However, there is flexibility in the scheduling of these meetings, Glasson said, and she hopes there will be more meetings when necessary. She said the union is ready to move forward and help UIHC ensure patients are receiving the best care and workers are in the best workplace possible.

“This will help the hospital by improving the quality of outcomes for patients,” she said. “We even want to talk to [UIHC] about ideas we have to reduce costs and save money while providing the most efficient and quality care. There’s room for real opportunity here to build a better relationship and workplace.”