The big bad word: unionization

  1. Where I work, we are forbidden under threat of immediate termination to even discuss unionization. The hospital uses the loophole of not allowing ANY non-hospital literature to be passed amongst co-workers (ie-you can't bring your kids' fundraising orderbooks to work, or Avon, or anything at all) to get by with suppressing the information about unions from getting around.

    As you may or may not have read, Norton Hospitals here in Louisville lost a huge court case recently and were forced to allow union reps to speak freely within their facilities. Five or six years ago, Norton Audubon Hospital fired two nurses for the sole reason that they were trying to start a union, not just for nurses, but for lab, pharmacy, and other staff as well. After long years of fighting, those nurses are at least vindicated, although they have gone on to other jobs in other facilities, their names having been drug through the mud at every opportunity. My hospital is scared to death of having to give their workers a voice and god forbid some power over how things go.

    So, my question is, is it like this everywhere? I mean, people at Ford make nearly twice what I do, and they barely have to have a high school education. What do they have that I don't? The UAW, that's what. That really disturbs me, and as much as I dislike the idea of having to have a union to secure my rights in the workplace--I really think that may be what it comes down to.

    Thoughts or opinions on this matter are welcome! Lord knows I certainly can't discuss it at work! I'd especially like to hear from nurses who work in cities with unions, whether or not they themselves are members. We don't have any nurse's unions here yet, although there are several groups working on it, and I'd like to know what it's really like.

    Thanks,
    not-nancy
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  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   StirLady
    I am relatively new to the area I live in with only 1 1/2 years living here and 1 year under my employment belt in this area. However, I wonder about some of my co-workers and their intelligence levels. Having been raised around UAW teritories all my life, I have seen the good and the bad of the unions.

    When I came to my current employers, I started to ask some questions in the process of getting to know my facility and co-workers. I was horrified when I was informed that the last time a union was attempted, not only was it highly discouraged and label as the devil or at the very LEAST it would cause massive unemployment, the administrator ran a video about the union wars of the 20's and 30's.

    My first question to my co-workers was if any of them were aware that this was an intimidation tactic and against Federal Fair Labor Laws if I wasn't mistaken. For the most part, they were all afraid of loosing jobs, and one commented that it took her TWO YEARS to get of the SSSSSSSSS LIST.

    With horror stories like these, managments are assured of a very complacance work force, but the patients suffer due to lack of empathy, ethics, and desire to give the add extra effort most of us prefer to give our patients.

    Just my thoughts.
  4. by   fiestynurse
    Your Right to Organize

    You have a legal right to organize. This means you have a right to:
    Sign a union card and attend meetings to discuss unionization.
    Talk to other nurses about unionizing in non-patient areas, as long as you do not hand out written materials on work time or in work areas (cafeteria, locker rooms, and break rooms are OK).
    It is illegal for your employer to require you to discuss your feelings about unionization or to discipline you in any way for exercising your rights to join or support a union.
  5. by   kewlnurse
    Unions are not all that they are cracked up to be. I work for a hospital and the guys at Ford make almost twice as much as i do too. We have crappy staffing, no retirement, so so benefits.
  6. by   KC CHICK
    During my last semester at school, we would have guest speakers in our trends class. A group of 4 nurses from a local KC hospital came to speak to us about their union. I was expecting straight facts about union structure, pros & cons, etc. I was highly disappointed. All these women could do was _itch about how terrible their jobs were and how terrible it was to work in their hospital!! They represented themselves very poorly.....turned me off completely to joining a union.
    Many students in my class had already scheduled interviews with the hospital they were from. I think nearly all of them immediately called and cancelled those interviews due to this 'presentation'. All these nurses did was hurt themselves, and the nurses they represent, by eliminating potential new staff that could have helped them on their units. Who needs that???

    I want MY voice to be heard- represent myself....not be represented by someone that just wants to gripe and can't get something done constructively. Attitudes like the ones these women had may be part of the reason why nursing, as a profession, is not taken as seriously as we would like.
    I truely hope that all nursing unions are not represented the way in which this one was. If so, then you are just wasting your time- not to mention the money you're paying for union dues.
  7. by   prmenrs
    Wow! All that from ONE presentation??

    You can't "go it alone". Do you think they're gonna listen to one nurse by him/herself??

    I'm not getting on anyone's case--I'm just saying that you might want to take another look at that union thing sometime.

    I was/is not hardcore, softcore or any other core pro-union; I didn't think we needed it before we had it, but it came in ~ 18 years ago, and there have been some very interesting developments, aside from better wages. e.g., the union (CNA) got the relief charge nurse differential, they got the long time per-diem staff some optional benefits packages, they got time and 1/2 pay for certain holidays, the language about floating is better, we can file "Assignment despite Objections" if that's appropriate.

    In other news, the money we pay them has enabled them to write and lobby for some very interesting legislation regarding safe staffing.

    The VERY worst thing the union does is create an even more staff - management adversarial atmosphere, which I personnally HATE. For some strange reason, I think we should be on the same side of patient care, but that doesn't happen these days any way, so...

    The good side is that it does give you a say in your OWN future.

    Several others have made points about what administration can NOT legally do regarding what you can talk about, where, and when. (see fiestynurse) If you follow the rules, and they fire you, you can sue 'em! Simple as that.

    Anyhow, good luck!!!
  8. by   fergus51
    KC Chick those union nurses probably don't know how bad it is EVERYWHERE (including non-union hospitals)! In my experience unions are a good thing overall, and I will not work in a non-union hospital again. I like the fact that a union provides an avenue to deal with problems a nurse has with anything management does. I also find that those that ***** about their unions the most are the last ones to volunteer to get involved.
  9. by   KC CHICK
    It's just too bad they came across like they did....left a terrible impression. How can I be sure, if we ever go union where I work, that the same type of people won't be representing me?? You're da_ned if you do and da_ned if you don't, really.
  10. by   MRed94
    The only "real" contact I had with our nursing union in the last facility I worked in was that I was involved in a big, messy disciplinary action against me. 3/4 of the "charges" were false, and I could prove them otherwise, but needed the backing of some of the other nurses.

    Ha ha ha ha ha Other nurses were so dam**d afraid of what "management" would do to THEM if they helped me, they wouldn't stand behind me..... The union was POWERLESS in our nursing home, and I got the suspension for things that I NEVER did; or didn't do, etc......

    I was thoroughly turned off with that one, and decided to go agency where there isn't any of that BS.

    I don't know what the union is doing for other places, but they sure can't do anything here in this town.....

    Not unless the administration is willing to work with them, and not against them......Some places it does a lot of good, but others it can't.

    Just my 2 cents...

    Marla
  11. by   OC_An Khe
    A couple of additional thoughts about Unions.
    First is that the Union local is only as good as its members want it to be. If you don't remain active, informed and protect the contract as well as your fellow members it will be come weak and ineffectual. A union is a tool that helps you protect your rights. Like any tool it must be used appropristely to work well. People must remember that they are the Union. Its not a bunch of outsiders you hired. If you want a strong effectual union you need to stand up and be counted. Employers even in Unionized facillities still try to use fear and intimidation. If you let that tactic work you surrender the most effective usefulness of a Union.
    Secondly, the Union can not also help you obtain additional benefits, wages, etc. It protects the ones you have. I've worked at facilities that when economic times were difficult (not so long ago) benefits like pensions, health insurance were drastically reduced or eliminated. This can't be done at a Unionized facility during the length of the contract. Unless both sides agree to renegotiate and a majority of the members approve any proposed change. You have a say in what happens.
    For those of you who have had a bad expirience with a Union I have this thought. I've had a bad expirience in a certain restaurant, I may not go back to that particular restaurant but I haven't stopped eating out. And if other people say that restaurant was't bad when they went there I'll probably give it another try. One needs to keep an open mind.
    Personally after 25 plus years working in this profession I prefer working in a Unionized facility as to a non-unionized facility. Preferably a Union that is run by RN's or at least one in which the RN's make up a significant part of the membership.
    Last edit by OC_An Khe on Sep 9, '01
  12. by   KC CHICK
    If I worked at a crappy restaurant, I'd probly quit....so much for that analogy.
    Last edit by KC CHICK on Sep 9, '01
  13. by   fergus51
    KC
    The way to make sure a union like that doeswn't represent you is to become involved in whatever union does represent you. Even really bad unions can do a complete u-turn when good people get involved.

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