1500 RNs unionize! What do you think?

  1. Associated Press Online

    December 14, 2002 Saturday 9:18 AM Eastern Time

    Nurses at Large Calif. Hospital Unionize

    BYLINE: CHRISTINA ALMEIDA; Associated Press Writer

    DATELINE: LOS ANGELES

    Nurses at the West Coast's largest nonprofit hospital voted to join the California Nurses Association, a decision that union officials say will curb the state's nursing shortage.

    Registered nurses at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center voted 695-627 Friday in favor of unionizing. The National Labor Relations Board supervised the vote. "It will be a sea of change in terms of how nursing is enhanced in Southern California," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the union.

    DeMoro said the Cedars-Sinai nurses' vote coupled with future contract negotiations will attract more nurses and help reduce a severe nursing shortage in California, a state expected to need an estimated 30,000 new registered in the next four years.

    The vote also will help Southern California nurses, who earn on average 25 percent less than their Northern California counterparts, she said.

    Last week, the CNA secured a contract with Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, the state's second largest private hospital, giving nurses there an average 21 percent pay raise over three years.

    "This is a tremendous victory for Cedars-Sinai RNs that will improve the standards of nursing practice and patient care at our hospital," said registered nurse Carmelita Dell Mundo.

    In a statement issued Friday, Cedars-Sinai said it would examine the union's conduct to determine whether any election objections should be filed prior to the certification of the vote.

    "While we continue to firmly believe that the interests of our nurses are best served without the intervention of an outside third-party, we will respect the vote of our nurses if the election results are certified," the statement said.

    Contract negotiations with Cedars-Sinai were expected to begin soon, union officials said.

    With more than 47,000 members, the CNA is the largest union of registered nurses in the state.
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   2banurse
    I think it is great news. The nurses need to reunite, and the CNA seems to be a union working to improve the nursing conditions. I am all for unions that move to change things versus unions that are just figureheads.

    If I lived in L.A., I would have voted for the union.
  4. by   Gomer
    I live in LA, I voted (No), started looking for another job on Friday night when the CNA got in. May be time to move on anyway, I hear we're in for a big earthquake any day
  5. by   sjoe
    Good luck to those folks, but I have found CNA to be weak and ineffective in my experience, unwilling to stand up to management in any way other than periodic wage increases. In some ways it is better than having no union at all, but in other ways, not.

    (And don't bother to suggest to me that if everyone paid them their high membership fees and gave them total support things would improve. You could say the very same thing about ANY organization in the world. They've had many years to stand up for nurses and haven't effectively done so. IMHO.)
  6. by   Judy, RN BSN
    I think this is great news! Haved worked for several hospitals in Southern California and will never work without a union again. CNA has protected our rights both on the individual level and as a collective.
  7. by   NRSKarenRN
    December 15, 2002
    LOS ANGELES

    By Daren Briscoe, Times Staff Writer
    http://www.latimes.com/templates/mis...n%2Fcalifornia

    Nurses and union officials celebrating Friday's decision by nurses at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to join the California Nurses Assn. said Saturday that unionization may help to stem a statewide nursing shortage.

    California has one of the worst such shortages in the country, with a ratio of one nurse for every six patients at most hospitals.

    Many nurses say that they are overworked and that pension plans and other benefits at the hospitals that employ them are too expensive or are nonexistent.

    The union, which already represents a majority of the nurses in Northern California, has been courting nurses at Cedars-Sinai for the last year. Friday's close vote -- 695 in favor and 627 opposed, according to union officials -- means that the two biggest private hospitals in the West are now unionized.

    Cedars-Sinai, the largest, employs about 1,500 nurses in non-managerial positions. Long Beach Memorial, where nurses voted to join the union last month, employs about 1,300.

    "This will have a very strong ripple effect," said Liz Jacobs, a union spokeswoman. Because Cedars-Sinai is so large and influential, she said, the vote "will have a great impact on the standards of nursing practice in California."

    At a celebratory breakfast Saturday at the nearby Jerry's Deli, nurses talked about what they hoped to achieve through unionizing.

    "I want to get better pension benefits and medical insurance," said Mariano Mendoza, 59. Under the current pension plan, he said, the hospital will match annual employee contributions only up to $500. Mendoza wasn't sure what a pension plan negotiated by the union would look like, but said, "It will all be in the contract."

    Carmelita del Mundo said that lower nurse-patient ratios would improve both working conditions for nurses and the quality of patient care.

    "I've worked at Cedars for 25 years, and they've had a long time to do it better," she said. "Now we've got a union, and I hope other hospitals will follow suit."

    At Long Beach Memorial, where there have been two nurses strikes since November's unionization, nurses recently won improvements in retirement benefits and a pay increase averaging 21% over three years.

    Union officials said that better pay and benefits could help hospitals retain the many nurses who currently leave to work in home health care or outpatient clinics.

    "The average age of registered nurses in California is 47," Jacobs said. "To keep nurses in the profession until they turn 65, you've got to have some incentive."

    Joao da Silva, 34, has worked at Cedars-Sinai for 2 1/2 years. He said the same medical benefits his family is able to get through his wife's job for $50 would cost him more than $300 under the medical plan now offered at Cedars.

    With the vote to unionize, Da Silva said, he expects a better benefits package and more job security.

    Asked what he would have done if the vote had failed, Da Silva was blunt. "My contract is up in February, and I'd be out of here," he said.
  8. by   renerian
    Maybe health care unions are different. I was a teamster for five years. Alll they did was take my money. It was a joke.

    renerian
  9. by   -jt
    <1500 RNs unionize! What do you think?
    Registered nurses at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center voted 695-627 Friday in favor of unionizing.>

    I think the hospital will say that 1500 RNs did not unionize - 1500 RNs were dragged in by 695 who voted yes & 178 who didnt bother to vote at all. Less than half of the 1500 voted to be a union but almost just as many voted NOT to be a union. And 178 had no opinion either way & let the others make the decision for them. The union won by only 68 votes. That could be a problem because it doesnt show a cohesiveness of the nursing staff on the issue & the hospital can wreak havoc with that, using it against the RNs. Those 178 who didnt vote one way or the other could have made a big difference in clarifying the opinion of the majority either way if they had just spoken up with their ballots. The hospital is not going to let this go because if just 68 of those 178 non-voting nurses had come in to vote NO, the hospital would have won & there would be no union. They will take this vote to mean that they still have a fighting chance to remain union-free & are not going to give up on that so easily now.

    I think the fact that the vote was not overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing & was extremely close will give the hospital confidence & opportunity to go after legally protesting the vote, calling for a re-count, filing an objection with the NLRB, &/or holding up recogniztion of the union indefinitely as it drags on its manuvering - propelled by the indication that there were so many who didnt want the union or didnt care if they had one or not. I dont think the hospital will just let it stand as is, like they would have had to do if the vote was more like 1300 in favor. I think they will fight it for however long they can - and keep the nurses in limbo.

    If its an open shop & the 627 who voted no & the 178 who did not vote at all can work there & not be part of the union, the union wouldnt even have the majority of the RN staff on its side. The hospital can use that to further divide the RNs, weaken their voice, & the unions position in negotiations. If its a closed shop & every staff RN has to be in the union in order to work there, but more than half of those nurses didnt even want the union to begin with, there is still going to be the problem of lack of unity & support - plus resentment & RN against RN. So the mere fact that a union is in but less than half of the staff RNs supported it being there, doesnt necessarily mean improvements will be easily forthcoming anytime soon.

    695 for - 627 against. Not good. Theres going to have to be a lot of work done to pull those RNs together & off each others throats.

    The power comes from the unity of the staff nurses who work there. A vote like this does not show there is any overwhelming unity. The hospital is going to work with that to its best advantage. The union & union members are going to have work that much harder to be effective & are going to have to prove to the staff RNs that there is a benefit to becoming united. They can be successful but the RNs would have been starting off at a much better & more powerful vantage point if the vote had been more solidly for unionization & the hospital HAD to accept it without question.

    Congratulations to the nurses for obtaining the legal right to make decisions that affect them in their workplace, their practice, their pts, and the conditions of their employment. But I dont expect the hospital is going to accept the union or make it easy for them, considering how close this vote was. I expect all the legal tricks in the book to start appearing to reverse or negate this vote. And I expect its going to be a while before the issue & a first contract is settled.
    Last edit by -jt on Dec 17, '02
  10. by   Gomer
    Originally posted by -jt
    <1500 RNs unionize! What do you think?
    Registered nurses at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center voted 695-627 Friday in favor of unionizing.>

    I think the hospital will say that 1500 RNs did not unionize - 1500 RNs were dragged in by 695 who voted yes & 178 who didnt bother to vote at all. Less than half of the 1500 voted to be a union but almost just as many voted NOT to be a union. And 178 had no opinion either way & let the others make the decision for them. The union won by only 68 votes. That could be a problem because it doesnt show a cohesiveness of the nursing staff on the issue & the hospital can wreak havoc with that, using it against the RNs.
    You are correct -jt, the nursing staff is very divided on the union issue. The union was pushed by the foreign-trained nurses and younger nurses. It may become almost a racial issue in the future. (White/Black vs. Yellow, more experienced RN's vs. less experienced RN's) But after the 1st it will not be my problem or the problem of 8 of my co-workers. We resigned yesterday. Just time to move on. Very sad, it was the best hospital in LA.
  11. by   -jt
    <The union was pushed by the foreign-trained nurses and younger nurses. It may become almost a racial issue in the future. (White/Black vs. Yellow, more experienced RN's vs. less experienced RN's)>

    Refreshing proof that new nurses are demanding to take the reigns on their conditions of employment right out of the starting gate. Theres hope for the future. At the St Catherines strike on Long Island, the nursing students boycotted the hospital with their instructors, walked the strike line & took clinicals elsewhere. Get used to it. Theyre graduating nurse activists now - no more door mats. And I believe those meek, mild, quiet Filipinas that so many people think will 'just do as they are told', say 'yes' to everything their employer wants to throw at them, and 'make no waves' actually spearheaded your union movement because Ive seen Filipina nurses in my city just as strong - in fact the elected president of my union is one.

    If you dont want to be part of a union of nurses with a legally binding right to make the decisions that affect you in your workplace, that affect your practice & your conditions of employment, & if youd rather just wait for some employer to give you the things you need at work out of the goodness of his heart, & hope they last, you may eventually have to "move on" away from the bedside - because direct-care RNs are unionizing in record numbers all over the country to obtain the right to a voice in their workplace - including in Southern California.

    In NYC, most hospitals were unionized by their RNs many decades ago. Very few are still non-union. When we move on to a new job, its a given that there is a union. One of the questions RNs ask at job interviews is "which union represents the nurses here". We expect the right to representation. Most will not work where there is none. The choice is not about a union vs non-union job, but rather which union we want to be part of - take a job at the facility where the RNs are represented by our states leading RN union - the professional RN state assoc union - or take a job at the facility where the RNs are represented by a healthcare workers trade union. If Southern California nurses do what NYC nurses chose to do decades ago, and you do not want to be a part of it, you will eventually run out of hospitals to move on to.

    The whole point of being a union is to be standing together in unity. It doesnt sound like there is that at your facility yet. For the union to be effective, the nurses are going to have to come together or they may as well not even have one. Personally, I wouldnt want to be the union rep having to try to accomplish that in a hospital where so many didnt want to be unionized.

    Good luck in your job search.
    Last edit by -jt on Dec 17, '02
  12. by   pickledpepperRN
    Cedars IS a very good hospital!
    I worked there through a registry and chose to work at a smaller hospital closer to home. LA traffic is tiring sfter a 12 hour shift.

    JT you are right. It will take a lot for such a large nursing staff to unify, especially since many units are great places to work.
    I still think having a contract with a practice committee will provide a system and framework for preventing unsafe patient care on the good units and improving care on the ones with problems.

    PS:
    For a very large teaching hospital the doctors are very polite, friendly, and respectful of the nurses.

    PPS: the staff who helped me help the patients most were both US and foreign trained. They were of many races. Same for the minority who were unfriendly or "too busy" to tell me where to find things.
    I wish them a great contract and all my best.
  13. by   purplemania
    How can any Union claim to be able to solve staffing problems, or any problem, until they have an actual contract? And how can you solve staffing problems if nurses aren't applying???
  14. by   -jt
    <Cedars IS a very good hospital!....
    For a very large teaching hospital the doctors are very polite, friendly, and respectful of the nurses.>

    It has to be a good place for nurses to work & it must be doing something right. It wouldnt have won a Magnet Award from the ANCC if it wasnt. But a place doesnt have to be the pits in order for RNs to want the rights they would have as a union. The Magnet Award recognizes facilities that value nurses, and an environment of respect towards nurses is one of the criteria that must be met, so I can believe that Cedars is a good place to work even non-union. But still, having a legally binding voice in the decision making only comes when you are a union, so I can see why nurses want that too -- even at a good place to work.

    Only a few dozen facilities nationwide have received the award - Cedars is one of them - & they all very proudly use it to market to the public & to recruit/retain nurses. But an added benefit
    is that doctors and other disciplines are also attracted to the hospital with this designation because it speaks volumes about the attitude, management, enviornment, and staff moral of the facility that has received the award.

    There is a set of criteria that the hospital must maintain to keep the award & their designation as place of nursing excellence. They could be risking that prestigious award & title if they battle the RNs & fight their right to unionize. Union-busting tactics do not exactly respect or value nurses.

    Maybe the hospital will just accept the vote & not risk their Magnet status. With that out of the way, the focus could be on bringing the nurses together.
    Last edit by -jt on Dec 17, '02

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