Nurses' Unions

  1. The topic of unionization has come up,lately, at work, and it got me wondering. So I'm hoping some of you nurses who are currently represented by unions could tell me what union you're with, and how your experience with it has been. I'm ambivalent about the whole idea, but that's a change from being pretty firmly opposed. Any feedback will be appreciated.
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  2. 170 Comments

  3. by   Gromit
    Kinda curious about this as well. Where I work, I don't think a union would be needed -they treat us pretty well, and are reasonably responsive to employee input. But I have worked in facilities that would benefit greatly from a union (and was one reason I left) but I've never been approached by anyone with the idea of bringing up unionization.
  4. by   caliotter3
    I had the opportunity to work for one home hlth agency that was unionized at the same time that I worked for another agency where a unionization attempt occurred. The unionized agency (union had been in place for approx 7 yrs) was very "dot your i's and cross your t's", about making sure that their employment paperwork was just so and so. The supervisors would start out reprimand sessions by angrily asking the victim if they wanted their union rep present, giving the impression that this legal requirement was part of the "punishment", for getting called on the carpet. The director readily admitted to me that this was used as an intimidation tactic. An elaborate system of getting around the union was used to deal with employees. While good, the pay scales were still only competitive with other employers in the area. The benefits and compensation at this agency had been above the competition prior to the union. The other agency, where a disgruntled employee tried to bring in the union, won the vote against the union. However, the turmoil caused literally disrupted the internal workings of the agency to the extent that as long as three years later, it is obvious that severe damage was done. Many of the patients are well aware of the problems and will talk about it. Eventually, the director and supervisor quit. Working atmosphere in the office is now "negative", and not "positive" like it used to be before the attempt. Because of actions that have occurred, credibility with employees who have been there since before the action is visibly eroded. Those who were part of the attempt outwardly display contempt for their employer, (even in the presence of patients). Hope this description of the atmosphere at two places where the union has played a role has given you a view of the impact.
  5. by   lllliv
    i was with seiu(or is it sieu?). i felt they were a little weak in getting us raises, ratios, etc into the contract. of course, they represented everyone at the hospital so they had alot of people to satisfy. there were alot of grey areas in the contract that management could manipulate. we really did have good benefits though.

    i still wouldn't want to work here without a union. even with a contract in place we had to fight management to follow it. they still have the mentality that they can do whatever they want. my manager told me that even as i was showing her the union contract that said otherwise.

    i had my union contract out alot with this particular manager.
  6. by   Gromit
    Well, I'm interested only as an academic exercise. Our facility may not pay the best, but it IS competitive, and most importantly (to me) they do treat us pretty well. Under these kinds of circumstances, I would not be interested in unionization. But it never hurts to know what else is going on
  7. by   burn out
    We have voted them out several times at my hospital all for most the same reason being they really can't do that much for you other than charge union dues. Mike what area in wild wonderful west virginia are you that they are bringing it up again?
  8. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    I'm represented by the United Nurses of Alberta. Our health care system is based on a regional model wherein the health region is the Employer. (Ultimately the provincial government is the employer because as the "single" payer they control the puppet health region boards.) In these circumstances it would be absolutely horrible to work without union representation. As it is, the provincial labor board usually finds for the employer in the majority of disputes taken to arbitration, even when the employer has clearly violated the contract. I filed a grievance about a year ago over a contract violation that had affected numerous people in our unit and management was convinced they had done nothing wrong. The missed all the deadlines for resolution so it went to arbitration. In the end the employer basically agreed to follow the contract in the future and I received a letter confirming the settlement of my grievance. The language in the letter was rather offensive and I'm still not entirely satisfied.

    In negotiations in the four and a half years I have been a member, the employer has sought repeatedly to roll back working conditions, wages and benefits, to pit nurse against nurse and to limit any attempt to improve conditions which in turn would increase retention. It is illegal for nurses in Alberta to strike, so the only avenue we have is to bargain as hard as we can and hope they'll eventually listen to reason. In the employer's recent proposals for a four year contract they are hoping to be able to decrease the amount of notice they have to give an employee when a schedule has been changed from 14 days to 7, decrease the number of weeks a schedule has to posted in advance of the first shift from 12 weeks to 8, to increase the length of time they have to undertake an discipline from 10 days to 14, decrease the turnaround time between days and nights to 10 hours from 15.5, decrease the number of hours a person who has been called in may have off before being expected to return to work, create a new step on the wage scale that is 3% lower than the current start rate, and a number of other unpopular moves. They've also proposed a variable rate increase based on seniority. One of the union's proposals for a two year contract was to limit the number of times to a maximum of three in a day the employer could call an employee to ask them to work extra hours. It boggles the mind that the union felt we needed a request like that doesn't set off alarm bells up and down the hall!! Our contract expires on Saturday at midnight. I have no idea when the whole thing will finally be settled, but I'm going to start planning what to do with my retro pay now. Last time around it took seven months after the contract expired, and I came out with a hefty cheque.
  9. by   leosrain
    Hi Janfrn! I'm a fellow UNA member here. Thanks your for this post as it brought me up to date with contract negotiations. There is far too little talk amongts nurses on my unit regarding union issues.

    Our contract should be getting better by leaps and bounds instead of worse! ARG! Especially since we're practically in the position to ask for the world.

    In the 90s, Alberta nurses went on strike even though it was illegal...I wonder if it will come to that again?
  10. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    Greetings leosrain. This time around both sided agreed that there would be no bargaining in the media, and other than a brief press release at the very beginning of negotiations, there has been NOTHING in print. Even the information on UNANet is sketchy. The most recent wage proposals from the employer are a bit different than their ingoing position; now in addition to the new start rate they're offering 3.25 to 4% (instead of the previous 1.5 to 4% they'd come to the table with) per year based on seniority, again over a four year contract and a "special long service pay adjustment" for employees with more than 25 years' service of 2%, not indexed. The negotiating committee isn't thrilled with these proposals because they feel (and are strongly supported) that an across-the-board percentage increase is the only fair result. They've also offered an increase in night shift diff to $3.50 and the weekend diff to $2.25, changing Christmas and the August civic holiday to superstats (double time) and a bunch of minor diddling to other monetary issues. Heather isn't all that impressed with the pace or the level of commitment she's getting from HBAS.

    "* The Negotiating Committee is concerned that the Employers proposals (and overall approach to negotiations) do not reflect the reality of the current workforce undersupply and membership expectations for significant enhancement."

    I wonder who they think will look after our patients once they've driven us all away? Have they learned nothing from the 90's?
  11. by   Shamira Aizza
    In the US, nursing unions serve two purposes; as a palliative measure to give the appearance of improving a festering underlying occupational disfunction within a facility, and in some places as a place for meek employees to "sign up" for the team-based approach of extorting benefits from an employer when the employee is too afraid or uninformed to negotiate their own.

    I refuse to work at a union shop because it indicates systemic problems that have not been repaired, but have rather been "spackled over" by a union, and because a union will deny me the right and privilege to negotiate my own compensation based on my own merits and ambition.
  12. by   Gromit
    I've never worked 'union' in this field. Only in others -and while I don't have very fond memories of the times I've been in a union, but do acknowledge that there are times that they can be useful.
  13. by   insightful
    Check out the California Nurses Union. This union, not only helped nurses unite on a solid front (safety in numbers) but it managed to successfully take on the California State Government about staffing ratios. Now California has state-mandated staffing ratios. That is only one of the many positive changes that this union has made for nurses.

    The California Nursing Union is now working to become a national union.

    My attitude is, I have worked unionized hospitals and nonunion hospitals. I found the working conditions in the unionized hospital better. Plus you were not alone and afraid to speak up about problems for fear of management reprecussions.
  14. by   Suedern
    I am a RN in Las Vegas, Nv. and fully support my union the SEIU. I have worked for a facility here for atleast 15 years. Rarely saw a raise prior to the union organizing in my hospital. The raises I saw where in the 5 cent range. Thankyou very much. After organizing we started seeing real raises in the $2-$4 ranges, improvements in our insurance(atleast HMO's premiums for employee and familys are paid for now), floating issues are being addressed, the Kentucky River is now being tackled, and hopefully safe staffing ratios can one day be like Ca. and Washingtons. And thats only a few of the numerous issues that are being battled for by the nurses who belong to a union.
    I become angry that other nurses complain that the union doesn't do anything for them. Have they even looked back to see what they have gained from the hard work of the NURSES who belong to a union? Have they walked beside that union NURSE who stood up for them when they would not? It's one thing to complain and another to help. But those nurses who complain and not look at thatNURSE in the face and admit that its the bad employer who takes away and beats down moral and not address the actual issues affecting the patients and nurses. Have they asked themselves why their employer battles them to NOT do the right thing?
    My hope one day is to make hospitals accountable for the care they actually give. I also hope one day hospitals are run by nurses and not people holding business degrees where the bottom line is the biggest profit going to only few.

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