more proof that unionizing as a strong, effective union of nurses does "work":
Heres a sample of how nurses in unity can take on a giant ... and the far-reaching impact it has when we do......
excerpt from "Honoring Our Past - Building Our Future "
by Julie Pavri, RN
<<City In Crisis - 1966:
New York City's municipal (city) hospitals had undergone years of neglect. Buildings were deteriorating, supplies were deficient, and equipment was antiquated and unsafe. Nurses were saddled with a host of non-nursing functions - from distributing linen to substituting for pharmacists - and the situation was worsening The hospitals were severely understaffed, with only 3,400 of 8,000 professional nursing positions filled. Receiving an annual starting salary of $5,150 for a 40 hour work-week, nurses were paid less than city garbage collectors. Nurses were leaving daily for jobs in New York's voluntary hospitals where salaries were better, supplies and equipment were more plentiful and staffing levels averaged 80%.
An article in the New York Daily News described what a new graduate nurse could expect in a city hospital: "After 3 years of hard work and dedicated study...She will work 40 hours a week, not including the half-hour allowed for meals. The half-hour meal period will become academic because she will usually be so busy she wont have a chance to eat. The new nurse will find that she is responsible for municipal wards, sometimes 70 or 80 patients. If there isnt enough time in her 8 hour shift to do all her work (as is often the case), and she is required to stay overtime, she will receive no extra pay. How long will the nurse stay in the city hospital?"
When John Lindsay campaigned for mayor of New York, he published a White Paper on conditions in the city hospitals. His proposal to "restore the status of nurses and to attract nurses of high caliber to bring our hospitals back up to the standard of excellence which they should set," secured the votes of countless nurses and raised their hopes for better days ahead.
Contract proposals developed by the bargaining unit's nurses and presented to the city in October closely reflected the Mayor-elect's recommendations. These proposals included salary increases to make the city hospitals salaries "in any way competitive with the local voluntary hospital for a dwindling supply of Registered Professional Nurses." Premium compensation for over -time, holidays, and weekend work was proposed to remedy the practice of giving nurses only the equivalent time off for overtime and holidays.
Veronica Driscoll of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) explained "they dont ususally even get that because there would be literally no professional nurses left to cover wards and floors if they took the time off later".
Other proposals included additional pay for prior experience and education, fully paid health insurance and a shortened work week. City officials, however, were reluctant to enter into negotiations before the Lindsay adminsitration took office, and the contract expired with no agreement in place.
In January, representatives of the nurses sent Mayor Lindsay a congratulatory letter reminding him of his campaign promises, but the nurses were bitterly disappointed when the city offered only a one-grade salary increase and rejected all other proposals. The bargaining team, composed of unit nurses Beatrice Shorr, Ruth Wasserman, and Marguerite Thibodeau, NYSNA staff members Mary Finnin and Veronica Driscoll, and NYSNA attorney Robert Jones, refused the citys counter-proposal. Negotiations quickly reached an impasse. In February, NYSNA requested mediation and fact-finding arbitration proceedings.
Discouraged by the delay and lack of progress, it was a difficult period for both NYSNA staff and the nurses. Bargaining units began to meet more frequently to keep its members informed and meetings grew increasingly intense as unit leader nurses struggled to hold their groups together. Discussion turned to "what do we have to fight with?" Bellevue's bargaining unit chairman Mary Tomaselli, RN, raised the issue of mass resignation.
Standing up to give a speech with her knees knocking she said "People are resigning from here every week. The impact is not dramatic... suppose 200 of us went at the same time?"
The decision to resign was not an easy one, and discussion continued for several weeks.
Nurses who resigned would lose pensions and vacation time, and many were graduates of the hospital's school of nursing, and intensely loyal to the hospital. "Bellevue has been good to me..... theres an internal kind of fight while standing up trying to convince people to do this, saying to yourself 'when push comes to shove, am I going to do it?' Am I going to have the guts to do it?"
As the bargaining units struggled to plan their next steps, mediation sessions were held. NYSNA Assistant Executive Secretary Mary Finnin describes the sessions: "We presented our proposals; the city presented its refusals." Extensive radio, newspaper, and TV coverage on the plight of the nurses and conditions at the hospitals raised public awareness:
"The nurses in city hospitals have always put the welfare of their patients first. There has never been a threat to strike at the hospitals by the nurses. But our members throughout the city are threatening to resign en mass if steps are not taken to alleviate the critical nurses situation."
The frustration of the nurses was vividly described: "The care given is inadequate and substandard, not because the nurses are not trying or dont care, but simply because it is physically impossible for them to do the work assigned....Day after day, Im required to violate my principles and the principles of my profession. I would rather resign than see this continue."
In April, the nurses frustration reached a climax. Forty-one nurses in the Bronx Hospital Center bargaining unit, chaired by Margot Hahn, RN, spontaneously submitted their resignations. Veronica Driscoll reported to the Board of Directors, "The nurses believe they can no longer condone conditions which are legally, professionally, ethically, and physically indefensible." The day following the 41 Bronx resignations, Mary Tomaselli, RN and other nurses at Bellevue resigned. "... it was a very stressful time, it was a very uncertain time for us, because it was new ground, it was something that we just never thought we would be doing. You know, we just dont do these things like this."
Nurses at other city hospitals quickly followed suit. In all, 1,480 nurses - nearly half of all the nurses employed by the citys Department of Hospitals - submitted resignations effective May 23rd.
After 8 mediation sessions, the city finally agreed to submit the dispute to fact-finding arbitration. NYSNA brought in expert nursing witnesses, nurses holding various positions in city hospitals, schools
of nursing board members, and physicians to support the nurses demands, while the hospitals braced for the impending resignations by reducing admissions and preparing patients for discharge. The fact-finder terminated proceedings on May 17 because of the impending crisis. Late the following night, the city and the nurses agreed to accept the fact-finders report.
The agreement raised salaries to $6,400 by the following January. Shift differentials were increased; education, and experience were taken into consideration; and tuition assistance was established. Neither over-time nor the shorter work-week were included then but the fact-finders report called for a short study on non- nursing duties and NYSNA did achieve agreements on those items later. "Perhaps more than anything else, this assures the nurses that their rights to function as professional persons at long last was recognized."
The fact-finder summed up the decisions, "The over-riding consideration here is the forthwith resolution of this dispute so that essential nursing services in the city hospitals will not further be disrupted nor the morale of this highly-skilled, dedicated, and loyal professional group be permitted to deteriorate."
Jubliant nurses, relieved that the ordeal was finally over, rejoiced in the results of professionals joining together to improve their working conditions.
An editorial in the American Journal of Nursing noted, " The remarkable outcome of this story is that the administration of the largest city in this country had to bow to a fantastically effective combination of forces. There was the grim determination of half the city hospital nurses to seek work elsewhere if the administration failed to come through with a settlement which could attract other nurses. And, in NYSNA, the nurses had a sophisticated professional nursing organization representing them, using impeccable and skillful political, negotiating, and public relations techniques....
Professional nurses have proved that they could succeed in the big game of labor disputes".
The settlement had both local and NATIONAL impact. Within 24 hours, New York City voluntary hospitals were now considering raising salries to compete with the municipal hospitals and Mayor Lindsay lifted a job hiring freeze on non-professional positions, thus relieving the nurses of non-nursing duties. A NATIONAL salary goal of $6,500 per year was adopted by the ANA and the city nurses received special commendations:
"To a degree more apparent than in many years, NYSNAs efforts were successful in improving the economic and professional status of many nurses directly, and of ALL nurses by precedent and through inspiration. The very success of the NY nurses represented by NYSNA is credited at the San Francisco ANA Convention with providing the impetus for the adoption of ANA's first National Salary Goal. This in turn strengthens the real economic security of every career nurse now and in the future"
Widely publicized in the public and professional press, suddenly nurses were aware of their plight and raised their voices by organizing...... and organizing with NYSNA... all across the state.
(The items that the city hospital nurses of NYSNA's District 13 fought for & won raised the bar for nursing throughout New York state, became standard items in NYSNA contracts, remain so to this day, and are continuously improved upon. They also had NATIONAL impact for nurses in hospitals throughout the nation. Setting precendent for nurse's working conditons, salaries, compensation and work-day, these nurses also raised the standard for nurses all across the country and NYSNA reaffirmed its place as the leader and model for representing nurses in collective bargaining)
The year was 1966 when the battle began and 1967 when it was won by these courageous and unified RNs.......>>>