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NS with Union Questions

Posted

Has 5 years experience.

Hi!

I am a soon-to-be nursing student who is trying to understand the politics of hospitals and unions.


If you are knowledgeable about nursing unions and how they work, can you please help me understand?


Also, if you are part of a union can you tell me why you choose to be a part of one and how it benefits you.


If you are not part of a nursing union, can you tell me why you choose not to participate?


If you have any other insights regarding nursing unions, please feel free to elaborate.

Thanks so much! I appreciate all comments and look forward to reading them.

miss81, BSN, RN

Specializes in Surgery, Tele, OB, Peds,ED-True Float RN. Has 8 years experience.

I'm a shop steward for our union... I may be able to answer your questions. I became part of the union here as it was mandatory in order to work with my health board!

I am interested in this as well. I am in Louisiana and it is my understanding that I don't "have" to join a union. What are the pros/cons?

Union's aren't perfect and they have their downside, but overall, I'd rather work union than not.

If you don't belong to a union, you are probably an "at will" employee, meaning you can be let go from your job for any reason at any time and you will likely have no recourse. Not so with a union.

My union contract provides for automatic yearly raises, even when non-union employees got none the past few years due to the economy.

Management isn't supposed to do anything outside the contract, so certain things, like staffing, cannot be legally changed without further negotiation.

Sometimes, though, management does try to make non-contractual changes. When that happens, you have someone to do your fighting for you.

One of the cons is that unions make it difficult to get rid of bad nurses. However, from what I've read here, that's not uncommom even for non-union hospitals.

I'm sure others will come up with more but I can't think of any right now.

miss81, BSN, RN

Specializes in Surgery, Tele, OB, Peds,ED-True Float RN. Has 8 years experience.

Union's aren't perfect and they have their downside, but overall, I'd rather work union than not.

If you don't belong to a union, you are probably an "at will" employee, meaning you can be let go from your job for any reason at any time and you will likely have no recourse. Not so with a union.

My union contract provides for automatic yearly raises, even when non-union employees got none the past few years due to the economy.

Management isn't supposed to do anything outside the contract, so certain things, like staffing, cannot be legally changed without further negotiation.

Sometimes, though, management does try to make non-contractual changes. When that happens, you have someone to do your fighting for you.

One of the cons is that unions make it difficult to get rid of bad nurses. However, from what I've read here, that's not uncommom even for non-union hospitals.

I'm sure others will come up with more but I can't think of any right now.

I TOTALLY agree... I've worked both and I'd rather be unionized. One other cons is that we use "seniority" for job advancement. CAN be good for nurses that have been at the same facility for a long time but it can also mean that the best nurse for the job does not get the job. On the other hand, I read all these threads about good nurses loosing their jobs over silly stuff just as an excuse for management to get rid of them. Not gonna happen with a union. Unions have negotiated awesome salaries, paid Maternity leave, mandatory shift hours (unless the nurse decides that she WANTS to work more hours). I'd love to answer some specific questions for you!

I TOTALLY agree... I've worked both and I'd rather be unionized. One other cons is that we use "seniority" for job advancement. CAN be good for nurses that have been at the same facility for a long time but it can also mean that the best nurse for the job does not get the job. On the other hand, I read all these threads about good nurses loosing their jobs over silly stuff just as an excuse for management to get rid of them. Not gonna happen with a union. Unions have negotiated awesome salaries, paid Maternity leave, mandatory shift hours (unless the nurse decides that she WANTS to work more hours). I'd love to answer some specific questions for you!

Yeah, the senority thing can suck sometimes. The flip side of the coin though, is that it at least eliminates management from "playing favorites." In a perfect world, I'd love to be able to trust that management would always be fair and objective, and in that case I'd vote for non-union because I know what I'm capable of and what my work ethic is. Unfortunately, that will never happen.

Short form answer: I too am very involved in my union. So understand this comes from that perspective.

Management in all industries hate unions because they have to share a bigger piece of the pie with workers and because they can't just make changes because they decide to - eliminate your pension, cut your hours, lay you off, fire you for no reason, etc. And that's why manager will spend a fortune and tell any lie, break any law to try to keep their nurses from unionizing.

That said, not all unions are equal. Some unions fight hard for their members, are highly democratic and responsive. Others fail in a variety of ways. I am a huge believer in nurse-run unions for nurses. Because many of the state nurses associations don't do collective bargaining (and some of those that do don't do it very well) a lot of non-nurse unions have jumped into the vacuum and represent some nurses - including unions for steelworkers, laborers, teamsters, teachers, etc. Most of them don't understand the special needs of nursing all that well.

The best nurse unions, like the Massachusetts and California and Minnesota Nurses Associations, PASNAP in Pennsylvania and the National Nurses United have done a lot to advance the profession, protect patients and bring nurses decent salaries and benefits. You'll find there is a collective bargaining and nurse union area of this site with a ton more of this sort of discussion on it.

BOOYARN

Has 8 years experience.

i rather work unionized.... why? higher pay, more raises, cant get fired because some said so.... i worked both and working for a union is much better!

MN-Nurse, ASN, RN

Specializes in Med Surg - Renal.

Hi!

I am a soon-to-be nursing student who is trying to understand the politics of hospitals and unions.

If you are knowledgeable about nursing unions and how they work, can you please help me understand?

Also, if you are part of a union can you tell me why you choose to be a part of one and how it benefits you.

If you are not part of a nursing union, can you tell me why you choose not to participate?

If you have any other insights regarding nursing unions, please feel free to elaborate.

Thanks so much! I appreciate all comments and look forward to reading them.

I worked in a non-union nursing home, made $10/hr and the working conditions were horrible. A lot of my coworkers were complete sleds.

I switched to a union hospital job, got a 50% raise and while it is still a tough job, the working conditions were great. I'll trade that for some union dues any day.

jesskidding, LPN

Has 5 years experience.

Thanks for all the responses. Do you have to pay dues? Does management treat you any differently if you a part of a union?

macgirl

Specializes in Psych & Gero psych. Has 3 years experience.

I was wondering what states have unions.....

Thanks for all the responses. Do you have to pay dues? Does management treat you any differently if you a part of a union?

Again, the answer is not easily made short:

In a "right to work" state, no one can be compelled to join or pay dues. But - and here's the part that is manifestly unfair - you still get all the benefits of the union contract and if you are disciplined or terminated the union is required by law to represent you just as if you were a member.

In states that are not RTW states, then it's a matter of negotiation between the union and the employer whether you can be required to join or pay dues. Employers always prefer an "open shop" while unions naturally are the opposite - both because they want the dues and because having everyone in makes the union stronger and more effective for everyone.

In my experience, once a workplace is unionized, management doesn't treat people differently. Of course, during the process of unionizing, it's a very different story.

miss81, BSN, RN

Specializes in Surgery, Tele, OB, Peds,ED-True Float RN. Has 8 years experience.

I'm in Canada so perhaps it's a little different here. We pay dues (approx $27/cheque). We are not treated any differently 'cause they are required to follow the rules of our contract... period! You never have to meet with a manager about any "incident" without representation with you (A Shop Steward who knows the contract inside out). They cannot discipline you without scheduling a meeting and TELLING you what the meeting is about and they MUST give to time to get a shop steward to come with you. NO SURPRISE DISCIPLINE! That being said, in order to work with my health board you must be a part of the union so all the RN's are on the same playing field with management. LPN's are in a different union with housekeeping, Laundry, PCT"S and kitchen staff, so I cannot speak for them.

Edited by miss81

tokmom, BSN, RN

Specializes in Certified Med/Surg tele, and other stuff. Has 30 years experience.

Closed shop here. That means everyone has to be in the union. Dues are a percentage of your wage. I think ours is 1%.

I was on the negotiating team for our hospital. We bargained for over a year and almost went on strike. Management didn't treat me any differently than a nurse not on the team. I'm a good employee, never call in and left the negotiations at the table. I actually have a very good relationship with management, even though I went toe to toe in some very tense negotiations.

jesskidding, LPN

Has 5 years experience.

I am in a "Right to Work" state. In what ways does this affect nursing unions?

Also, say when I graduate and am hired and I go into work my shift and I have seven patients. Can I refuse to accept all seven to protect myself, the patients and my license? If I refuse, will the union back me?

Thanks!

ReginaPhalange

Has 6 years experience.

What an interesting thread. I have been wondering about unions as well. I'm in a non-union state and my facility is so against unions that they make us sign a non-union form when we hire on basically stating that IF a union were to ever form, that we would not join...or something along those lines.

tokmom, BSN, RN

Specializes in Certified Med/Surg tele, and other stuff. Has 30 years experience.

I am in a "Right to Work" state. In what ways does this affect nursing unions?

Also, say when I graduate and am hired and I go into work my shift and I have seven patients. Can I refuse to accept all seven to protect myself, the patients and my license? If I refuse, will the union back me?

Thanks!

No, the union would not back you in that case. You can't refuse to accept your entire assigment. What we have are unsafe staffing forms. If you feel your load is unsafe, you fill one of these forms out. The manager, supervisor, and union get one. If this continues the union can step in and file unsafe working conditions. It would also protect you to a point, because you brought to their attention of the unsafe conditions but had to work in them anyway.

Some hospitals in WA are open and closed shops. I have worked both. I prefer union because I have the backing of them if management decides they want to fire me. I have also dropped the union when they gave me a pay cut at my previous hospital.