How do YOU feel about nurses striking?

Nurses General Nursing


  1. Should nurses be allowed to strike?

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84 members have participated

In Professional Growth II, my group has to debate the pros and cons of nurses striking. There seems to be a lot of info out there about how patients feel, management feel, etc. What I want to know is how do NURSES feel about striking? Are you for it, or against it? Thanks in advance for your answers ladies and gentlemen.


124 Posts

I think it is unethical

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

108 Articles; 9,984 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

Should nurses be "allowed" to strike? Damn straight! What good are fair labor practices, if we had no bargaining chips to help ensure that they're followed? For that matter, of what use would nurses' unions be, if strikes were not one of the arrows in our quiver?

That said, it would take nothing short of an egregiously unsafe patient care practice, such as chronic understaffing, to justify a strike in my estimation. I would NOT walk the picket line just for higher wages or benefits (if $$ were the issue, I'd just go work someplace else). But if I worked for a facility which placed patient safety at risk by routinely cutting staffing to the bone, and there was no other way to get management's attention, then I certainly would support a strike.

Ironically enough, the union at my hospital is considering a strike if, when contract talks begin in January, it looks like we're going to go through another long drawn-out negotiation period, like we did 3 years ago. We actually worked for over a year without a contract---no raises or anything. It sucked, and our shop stewards said "never again". So we'll see what happens, but I really hope we don't have a strike, because it WILL be about money, and it WILL get ugly. :o


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

It is not unethical---it is not wrong if carried out professionally and for the right reasons. oftentimes, striking can IMPROVE conditions/safety for patients and staff alike.

I am all for it, when all other avenues to improve conditions, wages and benefits have failed. You betcha.


358 Posts

Thank you for the responses so far. I am truly interested in what NURSES have to say on this issue. I grew up in a pro-union, pro-strike household. My father was the president of his local for 18 years straight (public service union - our family went through three long strikes with my father and even as kids, we walked the picket line with him). I married a pro-union, pro-strike man - in industrial construction, the contractors call the union and say we need "x" number of guys and then the union takes "x" number of guys from the list and sends them out to the job (been through a couple of informational pickets with him, but no strikes thank goodness).

But, I am still on the fence. I wonder about the nurse/client relationship? The effect that a strike would have on the trust that patients place in their nurses, etc.

That's why I have decided to ASK THE EXPERTS. Who else would KNOW the effects, would KNOW the impact on the health care system and everyone else involved.

All responses are sincerely appreciated.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

sometimes striking can IMPROVE relationships on all fronts. If the patients understand HOW understaffed, poorly-equipped, poorly-compensated their nurses are.....if they understand safety is at stake.......

I was on the fence about this, too, til we were ready to walk out. And STILL I was not for it......but seeing how HUGE the profits our hospital takes in, and they fight over this and that for nursing, I have seen where their priorities lie. NOT in the right places, often. And working with unreal patient loads and poor or broken equipment is unacceptable, as is working for poor wages or lousy or nonexistant benefits. How do patients expect to keep the best and brightest at their bedsides if nurses walk away daily due to such issues?

If you pose it to them THIS way, they may understand. If not, well, nurses are STILL number ONE voted as "most trustworthy" of all professionals, a list that INCLUDES priests, doctors and pharmacists, so honey, we must be doing SOMETHING right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!;)


2,709 Posts

It is unethical to stand around & do nothing while watching pt care go down the tubes and pts being put at risk with inadequate staffing and nurses working exhausted too many hours. Its unethical to allow unsafe conditions to persist. Its unethical to not do something to protect your pts from harm. Its not unethical to go on strike to call attention to all of that and put an end to it when all else has failed to do so. The community, the pts, the families are behind nurses who go on strike. They give a lot of support cause they know the nurses are taking a stand to improve pt care. They trust the nurses. They dont trust the bean-counters in the hospital. The families are out there on the strike line walking with the nurses. The community is out there pressuring the hospital to pay attention to the nurses. There is no loss of trust between the community and the nurses. They know the nurses fight is a fight for the pts too. In my experience, the pts, families, and communities "get it" and stand by their nurses and help fight for them. It would be nice if other nurses did the same.

Here's some more info:

Spotlight on Union Nurses

When a Nurse Goes On Strike

Rain, wind, sleet, snow-and sunshine-couldn't keep Ali O'Neill and more than 1,000 other RNs off the picket line at Oregon Health and Sciences University. These union nurses are represented by the Oregon Nurses Association, a member of the United American Nurses (UAN) - the national labor union for RNs.

And those 56 days walking the line in the Oregon winter transformed the nurses into a unified, strong body of one.

"For many of us, the experience of being a part of that huge sea of solidarity will be imprinted on our brains always, an inspiration that will stay with us for the rest of our lives," O'Neill says.

Management's arrogance and ignorance during contract negotiations in late 2001 both astonished the nurses and put them on the road to unity. When management abandoned the bargaining table one week before Christmas, nurses responded by swarming out of the hospital and onto the picket line.

Massive support from the community and brothers and sisters in the union movement bolstered the nurses throughout their fight. Longshoremen even offered to arrange jobs for the striking nurses!

But it was the daily coming together on the line that really personified the old Knights of Labor slogan "An injury to one is an injury to all" for O'Neill. For eight weeks, day in and day out, the nurses "got to know the amazing women and men we work with better than we ever had before," she says.

"The best thing about the strike was seeing nurses shed their feelings of powerlessness, isolation and apathy and take a unified stand. It no longer mattered what specific kind of nursing you did or what degree you had-on the picket line, we learned that we all need each other, and that through unity and solidarity we can achieve more than we ever imagined."

Nurses returned en masse in mid-February 2002 armed with a contract featuring raises of more than 20 percent over term--and everlasting bonds with one another. O'Neill says hospital administrators have realized the strike brought out the activist in many nurses, and that there will be "no more business as usual."

"The experience of going on strike changed me as a person forever," she says. "I did, and continue to do, so many things I had never imagined myself having the strength and courage to do....I know now that nurses united can NEVER be defeated."

Meanwhile, three thousand miles across the country, armed with e-mail addresses and her commitment to her colleagues, Barbara Crane, RN led 450 nurses through a 104-day "Red Storm" to victory at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown on Long Island, NY. The nurses are unionized with the New York State Nurses Association and, as such, are also part of the UAN national RN union.

Crane's daily e-mails buoyed union members and helped hold the unit together in the face of a ferocious fight from management. She says she sometimes received 100 e-mails in a single day containing heart-wrenching stories of fear, survival, sacrifice and courage from her friends and co-workers, which she then passed on in a "web of sharing" to keep supporters up to date on the situation. Word spread among nurses throughout the country. All told, Crane sent more than 100,000 e-mails to 500 addresses of nurses and other supporters who were watching from 31 states, to let people know "WE ARE MAKING HISTORY HERE."

That history concluded in March 2002 with a new three-year contract with strict limitations on the use of forced overtime, re-established enforceable RN-to-patient staffing guidelines and provisions for retiree health coverage-three issues that drove the nurses to the picket line in November 2001.

Crane praises her colleagues for their living example of the promise of solidarity. "We came to realize that 30 percent of our bargaining unit consisted of single women with children; now we were asking them to give up their holidays for the promise of better years to come - but they did," she says.

"What inconceivable courage it took to vote 7-to-1 in favor of a strike - one month before Christmas. What a surprise it was to our administration when we stood shoulder to shoulder throughout the holiday season and on through the entire winter never losing sight of our objectives."

The biggest challenge before the strike was getting all of the unit's members in agreement on the issues. Many non-med/surg nurses had never faced mandatory overtime or unmanageable nurse-to-patient ratios, for example, so nurse unit leaders worked to make sure all of the nurses understood the situation.

As the strike went on, nurses drew on the support of each other and the community to keep up the fight. "Something amazing happened as the days turned into weeks and weeks into months," Crane says. "We became closer, stronger and smarter. We started to think with a collective mind. We shared the various options we found that worked, we shared our feelings and our fears. When someone was not heard from, we called and drew them back."

Hundreds of nurses came out for open negotiations, picket line duty, candlelight vigils, house parties and bus parties. Nurses found temporary work through nursing agencies as well as reasonably priced health insurance. The union movement stood with the nurses, including a parade with nearly 700 members of 21 other local unions that marched through Smithtown to show their support for the nurses' cause.

The nurses walked back into St. Catherine's on March 17 changed by their experience. "Many of my co-workers have found a new respect for themselves, having survived the ordeal intact," Crane says. "They aren't willing to go back to the status quo. They will ask more for themselves in terms of respect and appreciation for the jobs they do and the services we perform."



124 Posts

Ethics, is in fact one persons opinion, if I feel its unethical, then that is the way I feel, just saying I would step around the picketers and clock in to take care of my patients.


214 Posts

There's a larger picture to focus on, rather than simply moving past picketers...strikes are carefully planned and are subject to detailed regulations and the hospitals are the ones ultimately responsible for keeping their patients in a striking facility and then staffing it with replacements. Those patients may in fact, be better off being transferred to another facility until the striking facility can resolve its issues-that's really focusing on safe care for patients. MMB


358 Posts

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE? I really need to obtain the opinions of working nurses. And I need at least 100 votes on the poll to be able to utilize the results. Thank you in advance and sorry to be such a pest.


124 Posts

Originally posted by mmb-rnjd

There's a larger picture to focus on, rather than simply moving past picketers...strikes are carefully planned and are subject to detailed regulations and the hospitals are the ones ultimately responsible for keeping their patients in a striking facility and then staffing it with replacements. Those patients may in fact, be better off being transferred to another facility until the striking facility can resolve its issues-that's really focusing on safe care for patients. MMB

I probably spoke out of turn there, I guess I really didn't know what it all involves because I don't remember ever hearing of one? I was just imagining the Norma Rayes of nursing and Unions......PS.....I tried to read the link but it was waaaaayyyyy over my head.....:D

I just meant that there is always diversity in ethics the difference between right and wrong and how each of us perceive what that actually is.....but thanks for explaining it further.....I don't think I should have voted because I really didin't know enough about how it works.......

azhiker96, BSN, RN

1,129 Posts

Specializes in PACU, ED.

I voted "Yes" because nurses do have a right to strike. However, I wouldn't strike because I think it's equivalent to holding the patients hostage. Most of my patients are at the hospital because they have illness/injury that allows them no other option. I don't think I could ransom their welfare and sleep well at night. When I feel an employer is treating me unfairly, I update my resumé and find a better place to work.

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