Senate candidate Tom Nelson of Kaukauna rallies with health care workers in Wisconsin Rapids.
Senate candidate Tom Nelson of Kaukauna rallies with health care workers in Wisconsin Rapids.

WISCONSIN RAPIDS — U.S. Senate candidate Tom Nelson on Wednesday was in Wisconsin Rapids to support health care workers as they negotiate for a better contract.

Members of the Service Employees International Union began negotiations last month with the health system Aspirus, which owns Aspirus Riverview Hospital.

They say they deserve higher wages because of their work during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Aspirus Riverview Hospital workers, their families and community supporters held an “Action for Quality Healthcare” which included informational picketing and a spirited rally.

In a social media post following the event, Nelson said a staffer who has worked at the hospital for 29 years is getting paid just $15.89 an hour.

“We need to care for these workers the way they care for us,” he said.

Nelson, a Democrat from Kaukauna, is the current Outagamie County Executive and former Assembly Democratic Majority Leader.

One of several candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, Nelson is running for the seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson.

During the pandemic, Aspirus workers have been risking their lives and their families’ lives to provide quality, compassionate care to their community, and some were infected by COVID, according to the SEIU.

The union says Asprius executives are proposing to increase workers’ family healthcare costs and make other cuts.

Workers worry these cuts will not only hurt the health of themselves and their families, but could also increase turnover and worsen understaffing throughout the hospital.

Meanwhile, Aspirus has raked in massive profits and taxpayer bailouts, and compensated the CEO with over $1.3 million in one year, according to SEIU.

By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.