Nurses and unions

  1. The hospital I work at is nearing a validation vote. I am a full time RN there. There has been a long battle between the organization seeking to organize the RNs and the management of the hospital. For the past few months I have been at the head of the opposition to the union. Without going into deep detail here, I am not opposed to unions as a whole, nor even to the unionization of nurses when there is need. I just do not believe that the situation at my work place calls for it.

    During my research on the internet I have noticed that most of the nursing organizations support unionization of nurses and are even calling for a national nurses union. I would like to hear what individuals have to say on the subject rather than the organizations. Any thoughts?

    screwtape
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  2. 33 Comments

  3. by   RNkat
    Having just moved back to Canada I'm still pretty new to the union thing. But I have to say I like it. After living in a "right to work" state I was beginning to feel that I had no say in my workplace. Now I feel I can stick up for myself if I feel I'm taken advantage of (hasn't happened yet) with regards to scheduling, workload etc. Sure there are the union dues and politics and pending strikes, but I'll take the union anyday over right to work.
  4. by   BJA
    The hospital I work for finally voted for union by a very close margin. This was the second vote on the issue. The union drive was spearheaded by people that were unhappy with staffing, job security, the usual things most of us are unhappy about.

    The problem now is this; Wages have been frozen for almost 2 years because of the long, drawn-out process leading to the union vote. They remain frozen now during negotiations which are expected to take a year or more.

    The other hospitals in the area have taken advantage of this situation and have been "harvesting" our nurses. They are not operating under the same constraints that we are. The other hospitals offer a higher wage, a sign-on bonus, and POOF! the nurses go. The sad thing is that the core people from the anti-union side of the issue remain at work and loyal to their patients and the institution, and many of the people who were for the union are the ones leaving for better money.

    Many of these same pro-union folks were amazed when they tried to negotiate higher wages for themselves (as an offer - counteroffer situation involving a job offer from another hospital) and administration told them they simply could not do so because of the regulations regarding changes during union organization and negotiation. They were genuinely mystified by this. They thought they could still conduct and negotiate their own business with their employer as they had in the past. SURPISE

    Please don't take this as an anti-union diatribe, but do consider the side-effects of a union vote. I am sure our nurses did not expect the long-term wage freeze and the subsequent mass exodus of employees from our institution.

    I firmly believe that we, as a society would not enjoy many of the benefits we have today if not for the sacrifice of early union organizers, but a union is not always the best solution for everyone.

    Consider well.

    [This message has been edited by BJA (edited October 29, 2000).]
  5. by   screwtape
    Originally posted by RNkat:
    Having just moved back to Canada I'm still pretty new to the union thing. But I have to say I like it. After living in a "right to work" state I was beginning to feel that I had no say in my workplace. Now I feel I can stick up for myself if I feel I'm taken advantage of (hasn't happened yet) with regards to scheduling, workload etc. Sure there are the union dues and politics and pending strikes, but I'll take the union anyday over right to work.
    While it's true, unions do offer some benefits I think the right to work concern isn't what it used to be. With the many federal and state labor laws now about the only way a person can be fired at the drop of a hat is through down-sizing. With the nursing shortage that's not a real concern for nurses (although hospitals do indeed go out of business). I've always felt if I am mistreated (it's happened a couple of times, minor incidences) I can take care of myself and there is always the NLRB to go to.

    screwtape
  6. by   screwtape
    BJA,

    Thanks for the insight. While I knew that there would be a period of stasis while the contract got ratified, and have argued that some nurses would leave if the union got certified, you have given me more food for thought.

    My view, in general, is that unions may very well be right for a certain situation but not for every one. Locally we are hurting badly for nurses. If the your scenario were to play out here my hospital would be in large trouble. We are even now having difficulty filling OHU, ER, ICU, OR slots, which historically, have been the first choices for nurses. A flight from our facility would just exacerbate matters.

    Do you have any views on a national nurse union?


    screwtape
  7. by   BJA
    National nurses union? I don't think I like that idea. We already have a national nurse's organization in place (ANA). If more of us were members and we used our political clout a little better, we could make some real progress. We are making some headway. There is publicity, some new spending bills that support nursing education, etc.

    I guess part of my problem with the union is that in many cases the union seems to protect the mediocre and fails to reward excellence. I have worked hard to develop my skills and my nursing judgement and I am recognized as a "good" nurse, and as such I have always been able to negotiate a better than average wage for myself. I am very hesitant about having someone else negotiate my pay. Some of my thoughts actually have a rational basis and some are the result of me just being the way I am. Everyone has to decide for themselves what is best for them.

    BJA
  8. by   fergus51
    I think that nursing unions are only really useful if they are state or province wide. That's the only way to avoid one hospital paying a lot more or less than another. I don't like the idea of every one organizing their own wages. We've been having a lot of problems here with health care lately because while nurses are in a province wide union, doctors are not. Every week it seems like doctors from one city or another are withdrawing their services because they want more money (apparently a couple hundred thou isn't enough nowadays). If they could just bargain on a province wide level we wouldn't have to constantly worry about taking patients from towns whose doctors are striking, and their wages wouldn't be skyrocketing the way they are. It's ridiculous that doctors in one town get HUGE amounts of money so the next group of docs says "Well, look at how much they got. We should get even more." I think unions make equal pay for equal work a reality, and that's what's fair.
  9. by   mustangsheba
    Originally posted by screwtape:
    The hospital I work at is nearing a validation vote. I am a full time RN there. There has been a long battle between the organization seeking to organize the RNs and the management of the hospital. For the past few months I have been at the head of the opposition to the union. Without going into deep detail here, I am not opposed to unions as a whole, nor even to the unionization of nurses when there is need. I just do not believe that the situation at my work place calls for it.

    During my research on the internet I have noticed that most of the nursing organizations support unionization of nurses and are even calling for a national nurses union. I would like to hear what individuals have to say on the subject rather than the organizations. Any thoughts?

    screwtape
  10. by   screwtape
    I MUCH prefer the ANA over a union. My problem with the ANA is that it tends to be a liberal organization. It wants more federal spending for hospitals and medicine, etc. I am a conservative, I truly believe that the gross intervention into health care by the federal government, starting in the 60s, is a big part of our problem. My delimma is one of, 'I don't like em so I won't join em' and I can't change em if I don't join em'. Course, my chance of changing the ANA is mighty small, IMO.

    screwtape
  11. by   BJA
    Maybe you can't change the ANA at the national or state level but you can certainly begin to effect change at the local level.

    Everything starts with one.
  12. by   pickledpepperRN
    I want to clear up a misunderstanding. At a hospital with a pending vote or having won union representation the "stasis" talked about does NOT freeze wages. If the hospital is doing that it is wrong. If the status quo was merit increases or any other pay increase that annual pay increase must be maintained. Any hospital that has been increasing salaries MUST continue to do so. If they blame the union for not doing this they are giving out false information AND breaking the law!

    I think if the management disrespects nursing work and nurses by refusing to provide what is necessary for safe patient care THAT is when a union is needed.
    If the nursing staff is treated well and able to give quality care the adversarial relationship created may not be worth the possible gains.In a good place the only value would be in having the conditions written into the contract.

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  13. by   Jenny P
    I've worked in hospitals both with and without unions; and I much prefer to work in a collective bargaining setting. I didn't appreciate the fact that the hospital could jerk me around and not pay me for overtime worked because they felt I shouldn't have been there after my shift was over (when I hadn't finished the paperwork).
    There is an arm of ANA which is the UAN- it's the collective bargaining part of ANA. The State Nurse Associations do their own collective bargaining for nurse members with individual hospitals or corporations, and then these nurses benefit from the union information and resources at both the state and the national association levels. I've probably got it mixed up in telling about it, but here in Mn. the MNA have about 70-80 different conrtacts throughout the state with different hospitals and each contract is different according to what the nurses at that hospital want. Here in the Twin Cities there is no mandatory overtime-- and that has been that way since 1985, I believe. In other contracts in the state, they do have mandatory overtime in their contracts.
    I really apprieciate working in a hospital that has nurses doing the negociating for nurses. I've worked in a system where all workers were lumped in one union together; it just wasn't as sensitive to nursing issues as having nurses do it. I've been at this hospital for over 20 years, and have been through the big Twin Cities strike in 1984, and I had never been someplace that long before. A large part of that has to do with this contract-- and also the people that I work with.
    Screwtape, you said you won't join ANA because of their liberal ideas. If you join ANA, you could work to change them from the inside so they wouldn't be so liberal. Change works better from the inside.

    [This message has been edited by Jenny P (edited November 05, 2000).]
  14. by   pickledpepperRN
    Originally posted by BJA:
    National nurses union? I don't think I like that idea. We already have a national nurse's organization in place (ANA). If more of us were members and we used our political clout a little better, we could make some real progress. We are making some headway. There is publicity, some new spending bills that support nursing education, etc.

    I guess part of my problem with the union is that in many cases the union seems to protect the mediocre and fails to reward excellence. I have worked hard to develop my skills and my nursing judgement and I am recognized as a "good" nurse, and as such I have always been able to negotiate a better than average wage for myself. I am very hesitant about having someone else negotiate my pay. Some of my thoughts actually have a rational basis and some are the result of me just being the way I am. Everyone has to decide for themselves what is best for them.

    BJA
    Well,
    Do you remember the RN on 20/20 who was fired for reporting a sadistic MD to the medical board? He had his license to practice medicine revoked. She was fired. Those who covered up the problem were given big raises.
    This is not negotiationg better pay for competence. It is rewarding the wrongdoer. In most cases the "good little girl" is told to keep quiet. How can we advocate for patients when without an advocate for US we must let the guilty greedy get away with harming patients?
    The old way of rewarding excellence in nursing has almost fallen by the wayside. Now it is "Excellence in Cost Effective Care Delivery"
    How sad! Do we allow unsafe staffing, transferring or discharging patients before they are ready, and unqualified workers to continue? That is often how to get a big raise. You can guess what I think of the nurse who sells herself like that.
    The bean counters may know not what they do, does a nurse have any excuse?
    If your union protects the mediocre why not get involved to make a proposal that truly rewards the finest nurses? Even so called "trouble makers and patient advocates".
    Many non-union facilities especially the for-profits reward the cost cutters.
    Sorry but in nursing we MUST not do what is best for an individual but what is best for patient care thus best for nursing.


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    [This message has been edited by spacenurse (edited November 08, 2000).]

    [This message has been edited by spacenurse (edited November 08, 2000).]

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