Professionals or "workers"

  1. 3
    I am attending nursing school in Michigan, a very "union" state. I have recently moved here from Texas, a right to work state. There is a big political issue going on here about Right-to-work. And until people started posting on our student fb page, I don't think it dawned on me that nurses had a union. I have a lot to learn fast, I guess.

    The biggest issue I have is that I don't really want to be a "worker" that needs protection by a union, but would rather be considered a "professional". Other than teachers, are there any other degreed professions that have a union? I may just be ignorant because of my life in Texas, but I haven't been able to find any or references. Most just have professional societies ... which we also have...but these are not unions. It almost seems demeaning that teachers and nurses, both primarily female professions, feel the need to be "protected" like lower skilled workers.

    I have a degree in Bioengineering and never heard of a union for engineers. Lawyers and doctors don't have unions. I couldn't find one for respiratory therapists, physical therapists, or registered dieticians. I know in both my husband's line of work (teamster) and my father-in-laws work (electrician), you no longer could belong to the union when you moved to a professional role (management of any sort).

    Isn't it kind of demeaning to our professional status to unionize?

    (Please be kind, I am asking really asking to learn and not to challenge.)
    CrufflerJJ, lindarn, and VivaLasViejas like this.

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  2. 97 Comments...

  3. 19
    I'm originally from California (a state with nursing unions) and have been living and working in Texas (an at-will employment state) for the past 7 years.

    In Texas, a nurse's employment can be terminated for any reason that the employer sees fit under at-will employment. I have seen many nurses down here get canned for silly reasons. Raises are not guaranteed in nonunion facilities. One new grad can start at $22 hourly, and another new grad can be started at closer to $30 hourly if (s)he has inside connections. A union would allow everyone to be started at the same pay rate.

    Sorry, but bedside nursing is not yet a profession in my opinion. Rather, it is an emerging profession that still needs protections. Most other professionals do not punch time clocks, wear uniforms, require close supervision, receive hourly wages, or lack the autonomy that characterizes bedside nursing. The bedside nurse has plenty of accountability without the authority. Rant over.....
    brandy1017, CrufflerJJ, kalevra, and 16 others like this.
  4. 12
    For reasons that I have yet to comprehend, nurses seem to be more apt to be abused by management than most other health care workers. There are numerous threads about people being forced to take unsafe patient loads or perform additional duties without having any others removed (essentially adding more work to an already saturated shift). You will be the only degreed professional in the hospital to perform janitorial duties in addition to the skills which you are working hard learn. Physicians and lawyers generally don't need unions because they are not seen as expensive peons in the eyes of management. Everything you are told in school about nurses being 'autonomous professionals' is a lie. Your clinical practice will be driven mostly by facility policies and physician orders, leaving relatively little for you to decide on your own. It's not demeaning for us to unionize, it's just a natural response to the way we are treated.

    Your first paycheck will seem nice, but then after a few weeks you'll realize that you're grossly underpaid for the abuse that you'll go through.
    kalevra, liebling5, echoRNC711, and 9 others like this.
  5. 9
    As a second career RN, I used to feel exactly like you. My first three years of nursing have been an eye opening experience however, and after what I've seen transpire I would never work for my Hospital Group (Sutter Health) without the Union having my back. While I am responsible for lives and am expected to know so much more and work so much harder than I ever had to in my prior career, I am treated badly as a worker and have very little control or input over things that directly affect my work. My coworkers--some with the Hospital for 30 years--have been fired for trumped up causes and would have lost everything had it not been for the Union. I do make a better income and have better benefits now, but am not treated like the professional I am.
    CrufflerJJ, echoRNC711, brandy1017, and 6 others like this.
  6. 8
    Quote from blackribbon
    Isn't it kind of demeaning to our professional status to unionize?

    (Please be kind, I am asking really asking to learn and not to challenge.)
    I call BS.

    Calling hundreds of thousands of past, future, and present RNs status "demeaning" is a bad way to start a conversation you hope to learn something from.

    Hope you pick up some manners in Michigan.
    nursel56, BrandonLPN, sharonp30, and 5 others like this.
  7. 13
    Quote from MN-Nurse
    I call BS.

    Calling hundreds of thousands of past, future, and present RNs status "demeaning" is a bad way to start a conversation you hope to learn something from.

    Hope you pick up some manners in Michigan.
    I don't agree. Leave your feelings out of this and try to discuss this intellectual matter seriously, please. It is very true that unions in most cases are utilized by laborers, not autonomous professionals -- which is what nursing is supposed to aspire to. By denying this, you help to hold back the profession.
    CrufflerJJ, kogafietsen, kalevra, and 10 others like this.
  8. 18
    Police, corrections and fire personnel are union and they have powerful unions.

    In New Jersey, our Civil Service workforce is union - CWA, AFSCME and IFTBE (I may have misspelled this; they were a small group). Professionals with various degrees are employed within these ranks and this includes Dept of Health with medical, nursing, psych, soc and others.

    Teachers in the private and public sectors are union, too.

    These unions are all big and powerful. They are a force to be reckoned with.

    The member professionals are no less professional just because they are members. There's power in numbers. I was even a member of a Teamsters union when I worked HH.

    Unions are there to benefit and protect their members.
    BrandonLPN, echoRNC711, tewdles, and 15 others like this.
  9. 19
    I have worked as a traveler in a union state, and at home in hospitals in my right-to-work state. Even though I was not a member of the union in California, I certainly benefitted from the union, and am very pro-union for nurses now. The majority of lawyers and doctors bill for services. They do not punch a time clock. If they are employlees, they usually have contracts spelling out their rights and responsibilites. I challenge you to find a lawyer who doesn't get bathroom breaks in an 8 hour period 4 days out of 5. (I was a lawyer in another life, I promise this doesn't happen to these professionals).

    In California, I ALWAYS got breaks. Always. The hospital had to answer to the state if I didn't. I never got overloaded, because they had mandatory staffing ratios. At home, there were many shifts when I would work 12 hours without getting a chance to pee even once, and forget about eating. I have had to care for an unsafe number of patients many, many times. I have seen a nurse physically assaulted by a physician, and the nurse lost her job. The physician, the other "professional," was back at work the next week with a very minor pat on the wrist. The wronged nurse lost her livelihood. Because she didn't have a union to back her up. I'm now in a wonderful job where I don't deal with these things anymore, but I consider this job a miracle from God. When the hospital was my only option, I lived in fear every day.

    Unions aren't perfect, but they are way better than being out on a limb every day with management sawing behind you.
    CrufflerJJ, nursel56, Susie2310, and 16 others like this.
  10. 8
    Quote from blackribbon
    I am attending nursing school in Michigan, a very "union" state. I have recently moved here from Texas, a right to work state. There is a big political issue going on here about Right-to-work. And until people started posting on our student fb page, I don't think it dawned on me that nurses had a union. I have a lot to learn fast, I guess.

    The biggest issue I have is that I don't really want to be a "worker" that needs protection by a union, but would rather be considered a "professional". Other than teachers, are there any other degreed professions that have a union? I may just be ignorant because of my life in Texas, but I haven't been able to find any or references. Most just have professional societies ... which we also have...but these are not unions. It almost seems demeaning that teachers and nurses, both primarily female professions, feel the need to be "protected" like lower skilled workers.
    If you don't want to be a union nurse, there are plenty of other roles you could take on. You are just a student, once you begin working, you may see why nursing unions are necessary. Many service professionals- teachers, police, firefighters, paramedics- have unions. My best friend is a school psychologist with a PhD and she's a member of and represented by our state's teacher's union. Teachers in my state are required to earn a Master's degree within 5 years of earning their bachelor's. Does it demean them and their professions that they have union representation?

    Quote from blackribbon
    I have a degree in Bioengineering and never heard of a union for engineers. Lawyers and doctors don't have unions. I couldn't find one for respiratory therapists, physical therapists, or registered dieticians. I know in both my husband's line of work (teamster) and my father-in-laws work (electrician), you no longer could belong to the union when you moved to a professional role (management of any sort).
    Just because you haven't heard of it doesn't mean it doesn't exist:
    Let me google that for you

    As with the unions you speak of, once nurses move into management roles, they are no longer in the union.

    Quote from blackribbon
    Isn't it kind of demeaning to our professional status to unionize?

    (Please be kind, I am asking really asking to learn and not to challenge.)
    Why would it be demeaning to take an active role in your profession and to stand up for it?
    nrsang97, lindarn, joanna73, and 5 others like this.
  11. 3
    I appreciate everyone who has answered my question. As for the person who was concerned about my use of "demeaning"...well, I'm talking about my chosen career path too...

    If I live in an area where the majority of nurses are union, I will be union whether or not I'm thrilled about it. I am a team player.

    However, it seems like one of the complaints that I have heard is that nurses are not treated like professionals (and when I am using this term, I am meaning degreed and licenced), but by being "union" doesn't that kind of imply that we aren't the same status as the professions that don't need unions...like the doctors, engineers, and lawyers?

    Are other health care professionals unionized? Respiratory Therapists....Registered Dieticians....Physical Therapists? (For the person who felt I was incapable of using Google, I did google both the original question and this one before posting...and didn't find any specialized unions for any of these professions. I have since found that there are a few engineering unions but they definitely are in the minority and are very small.)

    My husband was a Teamster. The union managed our health care and it was provided through the union, including retirement benefits. I have a friend who is a union Electrician. Not only is the health care and retirement managed by the union, the union finds them their jobs and paid them a small amount of money when they were "laid off". Do the nursing unions provide services like this? ... or what services do they provide?
    echoRNC711, KeyMaster, and lindarn like this.


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