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Union, yes or no?

  1. I am a new nurse and have recently heard that the nurses at my hospital are considering going union. It seems (at least on my unit) that the biggest issue is pay. Are any of you guys union and if so, what do you think? And for those of you who don't agree with being union, why not?
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    Joined: Jul '02; Posts: 74; Likes: 4


  3. by   cindyln
    the nurses at my hospital have been union for many years.So far I have seen no positive outcomes.They haven't helped me when I have gone to them.They always stand by management.But they are quick to take my dues out of my paycheck.
  4. by   -jt
    I disagree because I have had the opposite experience. It depends on which union you go with. We had a trade union from the 70's to 1983. Our RNs then didnt feel it was meeting our needs any longer & were not happy with the representation, so we decertified from it & unionized with our state nurses assoc - which we have had ever since. We have to be included in the decision making that affects our practice & our jobs. Decisions have to be made WITH us - not FOR us. We negotiate what our salaries, benefits, staffing ratios and conditions of employment will be - we dont have to just take what the hospital wants to give. And the hospital cant change any of it at their whim. We have to agree before the hospital can do anything that affects us. The hospital can't lord over us or lay down their own law to us. And if they try, there are real laws to stop them. Not so in a non-union facility & because of that I will never work again in any facility where the RNs are not unionized with my state nurses assoc.

    Keep in mind that the nurses at your facility would be the union & their union can only be as strong as they make it. Everyone sitting back & waiting for someone else to do fight for them defeats the purpose & makes their union less effective. Its not enough for nurses to just vote in a union & then sit back. They then have to get involved with keeping it strong at their facility because they are it.
  5. by   Gomer

    Since you list your location as LA I'm guessing that you are at a BIG hospital in BH's (has a union vote scheduled in Dec) or a smaller hospital just south of LA...both which are talking union.

    From the get-go I will tell you I'm a non-union type...never felt the need, desire, or want to be part of a union. And so far, I've been lucky to not have to choose working in a union or non-union hospital. (We did have a union vote at my hospital last year and the union was defeated by 10% of the RN vote) Times they are a changing, however, and what was once a anti-union healthcare area is becoming more dominated by unions. If my hospital were to go union I would vote with my feet and leave.

    That being said....I think you need to listen to both sides, the union and non-union, a decide what's best for you. If you feel that you need and are willing to pay a go-between to try and get you a raise or benefits then go for it. If you feel your administration listens and responses to your needs, go for that. Whatever you do, don't listen to the promises of either side, as they both will lie to get your vote. And, remember, California is an "employment-at-will" state...not even a union contract can save your job.
  6. by   llg
    I've worked in a union hospital and several that have not been union. I agree with those who say "it depends" and that it's a mixed bag. At the unionized hospital, the pay and benefits were terrific, but at a cost. The relationship between staff and management was always confrontational, with each side trying to get the most from the other that it could.

    My belief:

    Good people are good people and I want to work with/for them whether there is a union or not. Life won't be perfect, but if you are working with and for good people, you will work through problems together.

    Bad people are bad people -- and if you must work with/for bad people, a union can help protect you against some of the worst things they can do to you. However, your life still won't be perfect.

  7. by   sjoe
    1) A union can help with SOME of your problems and concerns.

    2) A union cannot and will not help with MOST of your problems and concerns.

    In my experience.
  8. by   Genista
    Like others said, it depends on the union. I happen to be a union RN. We have a very professional, strong union. My benefits at my union job are much better than my previous job at the non union facility. I feel with the union, we have a stronger say in our contract. You would fall over if you read some of ridiculous proposals my hospital had for our benefits! If it wasn't for our union, we'd be barely scraping by with benefits and pay.

    This isn't my union, but it's a good one to check out for issues & info:

  9. by   nell
    As jt says, it depends on the union that you go with. Although I support CNA in many things that they do for nurses in our state (like sponsoring pro-nurse legislation), I didn't like working in a CNA hospital because everything was seniority-based. You wouldn't get Christmas off until you'd been there 10 years. I don't know if all of their contracts are so biased towards seniority, though. Regardless, if members aren't active and telling their reps what they want, then the members will get whatever the reps and union officials decide in any union. And if there is no union, nurses will get whatever management decides.

    I currently work for a hospital where the nurses have formed their own union that is not affiliated with any other group. We have a strong core of nurses who participate and a lot who just "sit back". Our contract is tailored to our unique needs. Some of the benefits that have been negotiated over the years: double time for holidays worked, time-and-a-half after 8 hours, double-time after 12, 10% weekend differential, 20% nightshift differential. We have not had mandatory OT for years. Holidays, floating, cancellations, etc. are all done by formulas so as to be as fair as possible.

    When our "good person" CEO (he had been a patient, so he understood what nurses did) retired, we got a "bad person" CEO. Despite his efforts to treat us as the peons he views us as, our union has kept him from implementing his nefarious plans.

    California may be an "at-will" state, but here's a page from our contract that prevents our being fired on a whim:

    Section 1 Discipline

    A. All RNs are employed for an initial provisional period.

    B. Upon completion of the RN's initial provisional period, all disciplinary action must be for just cause only, in compliance with the Hospital's Discipline and Discharge Policy and Procedure (which may be reviewed in the Human Resources Department).

    C. All disciplinary action will be stated in writing.

    Section 2 Discharge

    A. An RN dismissed before the completion of her/his initial provisional period will be informed of the reason for dismissal; however, she/he will not have recourse to the grievance procedure.

    B. Upon completion of her/his initial provisional period, an RN may be dismissed for just cause only. All dismissal action will be stated in writing.

    Section 3 Due Process

    Written notice of disciplinary action (including discharge) will be served on the RN in person or sent by certified mail prior to the action going into effect, and will include:

    A. Notice of the proposed action and its effective date.

    B. Reasons for the proposed action.

    C. A copy of the charges and the material upon which the action is based.

    D. Notice of the RN's right to respond, either orally or in writing, to the authority initially imposing the discipline.

    E. Notice of the RN's right to PRN representation during any meeting in which the RN reasonably believes may result in personal disciplinary action.

    The RN subject to discipline, with the PRN representative, will be given the opportunity to meet with the Vice President Human Resources, to respond to the charges prior to discharge.

    Section 4 Right to Representation

    If the RN has reason to believe that a meeting may result in personal disciplinary action, she/he may request the presence of a PRN representative. If this occurs, the meeting will be reasonably delayed or rescheduled by agreement of the parties.
  10. by   -jt
    <I didn't like working in a CNA hospital because everything was seniority-based. You wouldn't get Christmas off until you'd been there 10 years.>

    So the same people would get every holiday off & the same people wouldnt, every year? I have been a "union nurse" for 18 yrs but I dont think thats very fair at all. Wouldnt it be like in a non-union hospital when the managers pet gets every holiday off & the RN who rubs the manager the wrong way gets none? We dont have this seniority holiday problem with my union because the nurses recognized the it about 20 yrs ago & negotiated contract language to deal with it way back then.

    Our contracts have a provision that says holidays are given on an "equitable basis" -- which means if you got Christmas off last year, your name goes to the end of the list for your unit this year. You may still get it off if there are enough who want to work it, but the ones who had to work it last year get first crack at being off this year if they want it. And you can always switch with someone. Seniority has no place in granting holidays off.

    And for summer vacations, usually 2 - 4 RNs can go at the same time. Seniority only comes into play when too many people want the same weeks off. Seniority is then considered only if the senior persons put their requests in by the seniority deadline date. If they didnt, tough luck. First come first served.

    The nurses themselves created these practices in their contract. Its a misconception to think that everyone who is in union gets stuck behind people with more experience for everything & forever. But seniority & length of service do have to count for something.

    Seniority is mostly a factor for us when everybody on the unit suddenly wants the same day off and its not a holiday, or when more than 1 equally-qualified people are applying to transfer to the same position. Seniority also applies in unit restructurings or closings. We cant be laid off because we obtained "no lay-off" language years ago, but when a unit is being downsized or closed, the senior people have first choice of positions to transfer to. There has to be some benefit for longevity.
  11. by   treecy
    I work agency, but I have noticed that the union hospitals that I've worked in had what I guess are nurseatient ratio limits and once limits were reached no more admissions were allowed. period. That is a good thing. I have never been in a union but nothing is all good or all bad. Each person has to weigh what they are looking for and if the union can provide it or if the current administration can provide it.
  12. by   IttyBittyBabyRN
    I am also interested in getting more input on this topic. The SIEU or SEIU??? has been contacted by RNs from other departments in my hospital and since my unit is pretty much secluded from all other departments and their issues, we don't know what to think. All of the issues in the other departments have revolved around staff/patient ratios and quality of care. No one is rallying for more money or benefits. My theory has been that if our management doesn't want a union presence in the hospital then they should be meeting with the departments and trying to find a happy medium for everyone. The first week or so there were many promises made by management about making changes, but not suprisingly they never happened. All we get now is union bashing memos once a week or so. Is it time for someone else to come in a moderate if the nurses with very legitimate concerns are being ignored and patient safety and staff licenses are on the line???
  13. by   Gomer
    SEIU = Service Employees International Union. As an RN do you really want to be labeled a "Service Employee"?
  14. by   -jt
    <if the nurses with very legitimate concerns are being ignored and patient safety and staff licenses are on the line???>

    That is usually what leads nurses to become united & organized into a union. Once you are a union, federal law is behind you & the hospital MUST pay attention to you. Thats why they try to stop you from doing it. The hospitals will do whatever they can (threats, scare tactics, & promises, promises) to get the nurses to vote against a union, because once you are a union, the hospital MUST share control with you.

    It cant just do what it wants to do to you - as a union, you have to be included in all hospital decision-making that affects you... and you have to agree with the decisions made or they cant do it. And once agreed, they cant suddenly change anything on you whenever they feel like it (like reduce your medical benefits, or not pay the raise).

    The hospital doesnt like you interferring in their plans like that so it will try to convince you its better for you to stay non-union. Not true. And they will try to get you to see your union as a outside "third party". Reality is there is no "third party". The union is the nurses who work there. THEY speak for THEMSELVES together, with the help & resources of their labor organization.

    The hospitals only concern is to get you to decide not to make it have to share any power with you by getting you to vote down the union for them yourselves. Legally, they cant be involved so they have to get you to do the dirty work for them. And they will hire expensive anti-labor consultants to direct them in getting you to do this.

    Sorry to say a lot of nurses fall for this psychological games they play with them & vote no union --- and then are soon left disappointed & feeling used by their employer who changed his mind about the promises made. But you should see how some of those union busting consultants advertize to the hospitals on their websites & you would really have an eye opener about where the employers main concern is once you read some of their comments posted on those sites.

    Nurses who are trying to unionize are being played with, manipulated, and used by their employers & those consultants who then are bragging all over those websites about how they got the RNs to defeat their own union vote. Its disgusting. And so sad that nurses fall for it and dont even realize their employers are laughing at them for doing so.

    What nurses dont understand is the hospital can promise you the world but unless you are a union with it all written into a legally binding contract, they dont have to follow thru on their promises or can dissolve them at any time once they got you to do what they wanted, and there are no laws to force them to live up to their word if you are not a union.

    If you work in a facility like a Magnet Award winning hospital, chances are the hospital policy already includes nurses in the decision making & is fair in compensations & fosters a working environment that is desireable for nurses rather than abusive. In that case, you might not need to unionize to make the changes you need because your employer already is paying attention. But these places are few & far between.

    SEIU represents all hospital workers - from kitchen crew to doctors. In my hosiptal the RNs are with the state nurses assoc & everybody else is with SEIU. The housestaff MDs are currently in the process of also unionizing with its affiliated Committee of Interns and Residents Union. To find out more about nurses in SEIU, see www.NurseAlliance.org & take the tour of a virtual union hospital.

    To compare with an all RN union, see the national RN labor union website at www.UANnurse.org
    Also visit the 'organize' page there.

    BTW, Allnurses.com has much info on unions at its Nursing Activism/Politics page right here.

    Question: supply & demand & hospitals raking in billions for investors - so why not demand better salaries & benefits for yourselves along with the better staffing? This is no time to be having to choose between decent salaries or decent working conditions. They need us. We dont need them & believe me, when you look at their own salaries & perks & pensions, they have it to give. Dont settle for less than you deserve.