<<Report: September 2002
Parker RNs fight for better work lives
by Mark Genovese
New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA)
Like most of her RN colleagues at Parker Jewish Home Care, Nancy Guillaume leaves her office late, takes paperwork home, and works until midnight. Often she works entire weekends as well-all on her own time.
"It's as though I don't have time for my family any more," Guillaume said. "When I talked to administration about this, they said: 'You can take it or leave it.'" Instead, Guillaume and the other then-non-union Parker RNs decided to fight it. They called the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA).
During the past few years, these non-union RNs saw their patient care assignments grow from 25 to 40 per nurse, scattered from the western end of Queens to the eastern end of Nassau County, Long Island. "With all the travel and the paperwork, we barely had enough time to see our patients," Guillaume said.
Since there was no formal orientation process in place, veteran nurses had to train new hires while handling their own cases. As it was, the new hires would leave within a few days, driven out by the stressful working conditions. Because of such turnover and short staffing, RNs were called back to work on their off-hours and even from vacations, leaving many with a sense of anxiety about whether they would be able to even enjoy a day off.
"We said: 'Enough is enough.'"
Guillaume said. "We decided we needed somebody to fight for us."
Although the agency is affiliated with the Parker Jewish Institute for Healthcare and Rehabilitation in New Hyde Park-where NYSNA already represents the 80 RNs-the home care agency is headquartered in Lake Success and the 29 RNs were not a part of the bargaining unit. The nurses worked quickly to change all that.
On July 12, a little more than three months after their first phone call to NYSNA, the nurses had waged a successful organizing drive and elected NYSNA their collective bargaining representative.
"This group was unbelievable," said NYSNA organizer Jackie Cataldo, RN. "They were very determined and were supportive from the beginning. Whatever needed to be done, they did it."
An example of how unified these nurses became occurred just a few days before the election. As the core group reached out to build support for its union, agency management contended that two of the nurses in the hospice should not be included in the bargaining unit and, therefore, were not eligible to vote.
"By the next day, the nurses had mobilized and collected signatures from virtually every RN in the home care program," Cataldo said. This wasn't an easy task, because they work at various locations throughout the day, spread out over several miles.
"Then a dozen of the nurses came in from the field, marched into the CEO's office and demanded that these two nurses be included,
" Cataldo said. "They were almost militant in the way they stood behind their coworkers."
In the end, the two ballots didn't matter at the time, because the other 27 votes were unanimous in favor of NYSNA. NYSNA has since filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to include the two hospice nurses in the bargaining unit.
"Now we feel we can say to administration: 'This is what we do
want and this is what we don't
want," Guillaume said. In unionizing with NYSNA, "We feel as though we have a voice now-we have a future."
Oct 5, '02
Hooray! The fruits of cooperation and standing up to be counted.
Last edit by sjoe on Oct 5, '02