How to bring in a nurses union in a non union state? - page 2

by sunshinepsychRN

11,822 Views | 51 Comments

I relocated to NC a few years ago from up north, and while I love it here, I am amazed and appalled by what some of these admins. can get away with in these hospitals. I have been reminded time and again that this is a "right to... Read More


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    or you could speak with management yourself and openly discuss issues in a rational manner. And then if your needs aren't being met you could find a different job.

    or maybe that's just what people in all other professions do.
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    Nursing is in many ways a funny world. We do have some of the attributes of a profession - like a high level of skill and knowledge and a strong professional duty to put the interest of the patient first. But other aspects of being a profession - like setting our own standards of practice and our own rates of compensation - elude us unless we act in unison with other nurses.

    I'm not willing to let some bean counter tell me what my standards should be. And I live in a community where I am deeply rooted and where there is only one hospital. So, for me, the only option for protecting my wages, benefits and standards of practice is to do it in concert with other nurses - in other words, a union.

    Those who say you have legal protections are maybe sort of half right. There is no legal protection in most places against unfair termination. You can't be fired because of your age, or your race, or your gender, but you certainly can be fired for no reason at all. You are an "at will" employee and your employer can fire you just because they are tired of seeing your face or because you mouth off too much or whatever.
    It is illegal to fire you for trying to organize a union, but that law is routinely ignored. The penalties are so light and the enforcement so poor that the employers have no incentive to obey the law. The absolute most that can happen if you are able to prove you were fired for that reason is you get your job back. No damages, no penalties for them.

    It is true that "right to work" just means that union membership is optional in that state. But in practice, states with those laws also tend to have very poor legal protections for workers, poor workplace safety laws, etc. Good laws in those subjects get passed because unions push them through the legislature. No unions in a state means weak legal protections for workers too. And there can be a huge gap between what the law says and how it is enforced. In your state, for example you have a governor who doesn't believe workers should have ANY rights, so the person appointed to head the agency that enforces wage and hour laws was appointed by that governor and probably doesn't think so either. So, yes, there may be some rules requiring them to give you a break, but highly unlikely that you can get it enforced effectively by yourself and likely you'll be fired if you try.

    Organizing your own union is next to impossible. Too much to learn and too many ways the hospital can block it. Unions are beginning to come to the south, but it's a slow process. And it tends to be strategic. It doesn't make sense to just randomly organize single hospitals far from a union's base, so they tend to look for opportunities to organize several in an area. NNU (National Nurses United) is branching out a lot. In the last 18 months or less we have won 14 organizing elections in Florida, with another one coming up soon. So the day when there are real opportunities to organize in other southern states may not be that far away. Your options right now are pretty much be patient or move somewhere else.
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Mar 18, '12 : Reason: spacing
    TomLM, OC_An Khe, hoopschick, and 3 others like this.
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    If you have a good employer , who works with you then you have no need for a union , but even in DFW all is not Hunky Dory , all too often nurses comment on threads re. poor staff / admin relationships , poor ratios , inability to take breaks ( even bathroom breaks )etc..Yet those who oppose unions make conflicting statements ie. you can't stand up for yourself ?!( whats wrong with you being the underlying message there ) or if you can't bring about change look for another employer ( thats OK if there is an alternate employer ).
    Zombi RN and lindarn like this.
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    Quote from EDnursetobe
    the less nursing unions, the better.

    honestly, they just make the relationship between nurses and management worse. every tiny insignificant thing becomes a battle.
    Yeah, I am pretty gol-durned fed up with my union battling over tiny insignificant things like pension, health coverage, salary, staffing,....

    I wish they would find something better to do with the dues I pay.
    fuzzywuzzy, KelRN215, MissPiggy, and 7 others like this.
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    Quote from EDnursetobe
    or you could speak with management yourself and openly discuss issues in a rational manner. And then if your needs aren't being met you could find a different job.

    or maybe that's just what people in all other professions do.
    Unions can also openly discuss issues with management in a rational manner, with the added factor that if needs are not met the employer can try to find hundreds of other employees. This gives more encouragement for management to discuss issues in good faith as opposed to telling a lone RN "Tough luck if you don't like it you can leave."
    fuzzywuzzy, KelRN215, hoopschick, and 3 others like this.
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    @Chico David, you seem pretty knowledgeable, and I appreciate your input, I have another question. My hospital has been bought out by UHS, a big fortune 500 company. They have multiple hospitals all over the country, some of which are unionized, does that in itself make it any easier to try and introduce a union here? I have already reached out to NNU, I sent an email to them for some guidance, still awaiting a reply, do you have personal experience with them?
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    Quote from sunshinepsychRN
    @Chico David, you seem pretty knowledgeable, and I appreciate your input, I have another question. My hospital has been bought out by UHS, a big fortune 500 company. They have multiple hospitals all over the country, some of which are unionized, does that in itself make it any easier to try and introduce a union here? I have already reached out to NNU, I sent an email to them for some guidance, still awaiting a reply, do you have personal experience with them?
    I've quite a lot of experience with NNU - the union I belong to directly is one of the constituent unions that makes up NNU. It's an organization I feel very good about. But, as I said, the nature of organizing is strategic. NNU has recently gone through a big series of representation elections in Texas and Florida and is now in the process of the fight for a first contract at all those hospitals. That takes a lot of time and energy, which means fewer people and resources available for starting new campaigns. And it's impractical to organize one hospital in a region unless you have a shot at organizing others in the same area - trying to do a good job of supporting a contract in a single isolated bargaining unit is just too hard.
    I know they get a lot of contact from people interested in organizing. Most of them it's not practical to help, but someone ought to at least get back to you, ideally.
    As to the other question about other hospitals in the chain being organized: It can help, but only if the same union that represents those hospitals wants to come to your area and they are a union you want to be involved with - they aren't all created equal. Most of those hospitals in Texas and Florida belong to a big chain. We already represented a hospital in California from that chain. When those nurses in California were bargaining a new contract they used the leverage they had there to get the chain to give us an organizing agreement - meaning a fairer, less coercive set of procedures for the elections - to organize some of their other hospitals. That can be very helpful - but only if whatever union represents those other hospitals is a strong organizing union and wants to come to your area.
    No simple and quick answers for you, I'm afraid
    sunshinepsychRN, Jarnaes, and lindarn like this.
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    Quote from 8mpg
    Just so you know...that is illegal. You have the right to get paid for the hours you work. The company illegally deducting pay for breaks not taken is illegal. Our hospital now forces us to take a break due to being sued recently for this problem. If you have a problem, contact your state workforce commission.
    I havhe complained to management about it several times and was told too bad. I am afraid of retailiation if I tell the state, but I am already looking for another job. I will tell the state when I leave, why I left so the other coworkers may get some relief.
    lindarn likes this.
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    Quote from EDnursetobe
    or you could speak with management yourself and openly discuss issues in a rational manner. And then if your needs aren't being met you could find a different job.

    or maybe that's just what people in all other professions do.

    I tried speaking to management, they do not care. Jobs are not easy to come by for those of us who are recent graduates. All the company cares about is making more money for themselves, you know who suffers? The patients. The staff as well, but really it has a huge effect on patient care. Trust me when I say you do not want a nurse on a 16 hour shift taking care of your mom. Too tired to think straight.
    lindarn and laborer like this.
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    Quote from MJB2010
    I tried speaking to management, they do not care. Jobs are not easy to come by for those of us who are recent graduates. All the company cares about is making more money for themselves, you know who suffers? The patients. The staff as well, but really it has a huge effect on patient care. Trust me when I say you do not want a nurse on a 16 hour shift taking care of your mom. Too tired to think straight.
    And there, in a nutshell, you have the answer to all the folks who say "I don't need a union, I can speak up for myself". Yes, you can, as long as nurses are in short supply and you don't say anything management doesn't really mind hearing. Once you say something that really upsets them - like that they are breaking the law - you're gone. And, in times like this when jobs are tight, it doesn't take much to be gone.
    dnnc52, herring_RN, sunshinepsychRN, and 7 others like this.


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