What a Union Can Do For You

by jadelpn Guide | 3,341 Views | 7 Comments

There seems to be more than one confusion on how a union can be of benefit to nurses. Especially when the grass seems so much greener on the other side. A union comes to a facility usually due to a group of nurses who decide that they want to have some say in their working conditions. A union will come in and give you a rundown on what they can do for you. A relationship is established. The guiding force of a union is a contract. The contract makes aware the salary, with a scale, and the benefits of nurses. Further, it talks about discipline, and the process that management needs to take. It discusses layoffs. It is a nurse's book of rights.

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    What a Union Can Do For You

    There seems to be more than one confusion on how a union can be of benefit to nurses. Especially when the grass seems so much greener on the other side.

    A union comes to a facility usually due to a group of nurses who decide that they want to have some say in their working conditions. A union will come in and give you a rundown on what they can do for you. A relationship is established.

    The guiding force of a union is a contract. The contract makes aware the salary, with a scale, and the benefits of nurses. Further, it talks about discipline, and the process that management needs to take. It discusses layoffs. It is a nurse's book of rights.

    The following is a handy little list of what your union means to you:

    1. When you are on orientation:

    Usually, your union delegates will introduce themselves, and give you a copy of the union contract. Will answer any questions that you have about the union. Give you pointers on what to do in the event of contract discrepancies.

    2. If this doesn't happen:

    Most unions have bulletin boards with the delegates listed. Email them. Ask for a copy of the contract. It is your guide.

    3. Get to know:

    Your contract. What the language says, how it says it, and what that means to you. There are processes listed, and timelines, so be mindful of them. It can only benefit you.

    4. Also get to know:

    Your delegates. They are an amazing resource. They (regardless of personal feelings) have your back. They know the contract inside out and sideways.

    5. When it is contract time:

    Union contracts are negotiated on a schedule. Some are for one year, some 2 or 3 years. Your delegates take the information you give them and present it for negotiation. Everyone has a voice.

    6. With that being said:

    Just because you think an idea is a great one, doesn't mean that everyone else does. The delegates will present everything, but some ideas are shot down at the table. It can give an opportunity to rethink some ideas, and discuss them for next time.

    7. NEVER, ever

    Go into any sort of meeting with HR or your manager without a union rep. That language is written in most every contract, so you have a right to have them present. They act as an impartial third party, are there on your behalf, and help you to apply the contract to what is being said.

    8. They may tell you:

    To not say anything when there's a discipline meeting. To hear everything in full, do not confirm nor deny, then to take a few moments to reflect on the issue in another room before responding. They may tell you not to sign anything, or to sign with "for acknowledgement of receipt only".

    9. It is OK to:

    Question what your rights are. To brainstorm new ideas. To think about the big picture of your practice. To disagree with what the union is trying to negotiate.

    10. REGARDLESS:

    Of if you are a union facility or not GET MALPRACTICE INSURANCE. TODAY. I am a firm advocate of protecting yourself and your practice and your license in every way possible. The union is only as good as the contract. The goal is that you continue to work in the fairest environment possible.
    Last edit by Joe V on Nov 25, '13
    Sisyphus, Joe V, blueheaven, and 1 other like this.
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    About jadelpn

    jadelpn has '25' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ER, Med Surg'. From 'Massachusetts'; 49 Years Old; Joined Nov '08; Posts: 3,494; Likes: 7,939.

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    7 Comments so far...

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    Thank you.
    Well written.
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    Let's keep our eyes open & fingers crossed for the nurses at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, CT. The nurses voted for their union to authorize a strike, & management says they will not take back any nurses who strike. Bad news...
    herring_RN likes this.
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    Nurses at Lawrence and Memorial Get Permission to Strike

    Strike looming after hospital keeps laying off unionized workers and shifting work to shell corporations.


    Nurses and technicians at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London have voted to authorize their union leadership to call a strike unless a contract agreement is reached.
    Thursday night's vote came less than 48 hours before the contract expires. The hospital’s public relations director, Mike O’Farrell, said the authorization for a strike does not mean one will happen. Notice of a nurses’ strike would come at least ten days before it begins.

    The state requires hospitals make a plan if a strike does occur....

    ... President of the Nurses Union, Lisa Dabrosca, says the union does not want to strike, but they will if they have to. She says the hospital has been laying off the union’s workers and shifting work from Lawrence and Memorial to their shell corporations.

    Despite O’Farrell’s assurances, Dabrosca says “the people who are replacing our laid off workers are not equally as qualified.” She notes that neither pay nor benefits are part of the problem. “We want to be able to follow our work if it moves to a clinic-based setting,” Dabrosca said. ...

    http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/l...232127131.html
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    Unions are also as good as the people who have been voted in to represent employees in case of issues.
    OC_An Khe, laborer, jadelpn, and 1 other like this.
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    I feel like unions go both ways. While its clear that they can and do protect and advocate for the nurse, they CAN (not always do) have negative impacts as well.

    I think its easy for most people to only see the positives, but I frequently hear of management being unable to get nurses off the floor who do not belong there (bad nurses). I personally know one state hospital in NY where it can take several YEARS to get a bad nurse off the floor and is an incredibly difficult process to get through. And the thought of a nurse not capable of properly doing their duties for several months (if not years) continuing to have patients lives put in their hands is something that scares me.

    I realize that there are tons of cases of management taking advantage of good nurses and in those cases unions are needed and protect them, its just the flip side of that is equally scary. Maybe its just me, but I wish Unions were more concerned with right and wrong rather than "just winning".

    I feel like unions are a lot like defense attorneys. If they are defending an innocent client they are doing a great and necssary deed trying to correct an injustice, but if they are trying to get a guilty client completely off the hook, then its something terrible and incredibly scary.
    PRICHARILLAisMISSED likes this.
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    And sometimes, as odd as it sounds, managment has all the tools necessary for progressive discipline, but choose not to use it, resulting in nurses staying long after they should. Then use the "it is the union" excuse. Termination for just cause is not something that even the Union can defend--as long as there's a paper trail.

    And yes, as a pp pointed out, we are only as good as the people you choose to be delegates. So choose wisely and vote!
    herring_RN and nursej22 like this.
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    Here's what my union provides for me: Predictability...

    That may not seem like much to some of you but from someone who spent nearly 20 years as an at-will employee, I can tell you that it's huge.

    I've seen people dismissed for all kinds of absurd reasons including:

    - Asking hard questions
    - Taking a principled stance
    - A moment of heated indiscretion on the softball field or basketball court
    - To create a place for the child/sibling of a manager
    - Simply being unpopular

    Unions create problems, to be sure, but they really are the only equalizer in a very unequal relationship.

    As I recently said to someone while standing outside our 700-bed hospital, surrounded by the med-ed building and numerous outpatient clinics... "Otherwise, it would be me... against all of this?"

    We have a strong union and yet I work with some of the hardest-working people I've ever seen.
    Marisette, jadelpn, laborer, and 1 other like this.


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