Last year at convention, some of our state nurses association's collective bargaining members presented a proposal to increase the collective bargaining nurses membership dues to support additional services we had been wanting the union to provide or improve upon. Believe it or not, we voluntarily voted 'yes' to increase our own dues to help make it happen. Heres how our union responded:
<<<Dues Dollars at Work
New York State Nurses Association expands services to members
by Mark Genovese and Genie Abrams
In response to members' requests, NYSNA is making dramatic moves this year to increase services and strengthen its Economic & General Welfare Program. These improvements are the direct result of the revenues collected through the dues restructuring plan that was approved by the voting body (the members) during the 2001 convention in Manhattan and went into effect July 1, 2002.
Strengthening the backbone of NYSNA -
For several years, RNs have told NYSNA they wanted more direct contact with their nursing and labor representatives. The representatives themselves felt they were spread too thin by having responsibility for representing several facilities at once.
"Our nursing and labor representatives are the backbone of NYSNA," said Lorraine Seidel, director of NYSNA's Economic & General Welfare Program. "They make this organization function. Every day they are in our facilities, resolving members' grievances, negotiating their contracts, and working to improve members' work lives. We wanted them to have as much support as we could muster."
To meet these needs, NYSNA has hired 18 additional staff for the E&GW program. This will allow members to see their representatives on a more frequent basis, and allow the representatives to concentrate on fewer facilities and respond faster to individual needs. The larger bargaining units at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan will now have a second nursing representative. Additional representatives have also been hired to serve facilities in the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. (NYSNA requires that nursing representatives be Registered Nurses and have a collective bargaining background)
Ensuring health and safety -
Members also identified their own safety as a top priority in the workplace. To focus on this issue, NYSNA has appointed Thomas J. Lowe to the new position of Occupational Safety and Health Representative. Lowe is a certified occupational health nurse specialist, deputy commander for the New York 4 Disaster Medical Assistance Team of the National Disaster Medical System, and has worked for 12 years in occupational health and safety.
"Safety is everyone's responsibility," Lowe said. "All too often, folks rely on 'someone else' to enforce safety. The more nurses know about the work environment, how to evaluate it for potential hazards and threats and how to take affirmative actions to mitigate adverse consequences, the better off they will be."
Lowe will design and offer programs to increase the knowledge and skills nurses need to incorporate the concept of safety into their everyday routines. "I will be accessible for on-site visits, provide phone and e-mail consultations, and offer advice and referrals to help nurses with their own health and safety issues."
Increased organizing activity -
As the competition among unions to organize registered nurses heats up, NYSNA is expanding its Organizing Department. New staff have been hired to start organizing campaigns downstate, upstate, and in New Jersey. The association has also begun a series of organizing workshops to reach out to non-represented nurses throughout the state. (We believe that RNs should be represented by RNs - ones who specialize in collective bargaining).
Initial contract team -
When a new facility is organized, negotiating the first contract is often a long and difficult process that can take more than a year. During this time, organizers work with NYSNA nurse and labor representatives to train delegates and to organize whatever actions are necessary to win the contract. These may include petition and button campaigns, informational picketing, and other collective actions to put pressure on management. To help expedite this process, NYSNA is establishing an "initial contracts team" that will be devoted exclusively to winning and settling a first contract for a new NYSNA bargaining unit. This team will be in place within the next couple of months to provide this assistance and support to the members of a new bargaining unit.
Improving communication to members -
As technology improves and the need to transmit information to members quickly and accurately increases, NYSNA has purchased a new telephone-messaging system.
Called "voice-broadcasting", it allows staff to call all members of a bargaining unit at the touch of a button. NYSNA's Practice and Governmental Affairs Program has also found the phone system effective. During the past election season, it used the system to notify Staten Island voters about a NYSNA endorsement and campaign rally, and it plans to use the system again.
"In many situations the voice-broadcasting system is faster and more cost-effective than mailing out flyers," said Anne Parrish, associate director of the E&GW Program. Nurse reps, labor reps, and other staff members can leave messages on members' answering machines or "speak" to them directly using a recorded message when members answer the phone. NYSNA first used the system a year ago, early in the negotiating process for the newly organized Shore Memorial Hospital nurses in New Jersey. Since then, it has made steady gains in usage and in popularity with both staff and members.
"We have used it several times during contract negotiations at Franklin Hospital," said NYSNA Nursing Representative Tom Spina, "and it's been extremely effective in helping us let members know what's going on, and what the most pressing issues are."
The system also lets NYSNA efficiently notify members of upcoming meetings. "Many times, nurses are working when the calls are automatically broadcast to their home phones. In these cases, it leaves a message," said Astra Bileris, director of office administration and operations for the E&GW Program. "And if the line's busy, it calls again."
Staff can activate the system from their own home phones-a handy feature when negotiations go on all night long on a weekend. The system has also been used to get crucial information to NYSNA's Delegate Assembly, to notify nurses of informational picketing sessions, and in other special situations. "For short, crucial messages, this system is perfect," Bileris said.
Increasing members' knowledge -
Labor education has always been one of NYSNA's priorities. For many years the association has offered a series of workshops on topics such as negotiations, grievances, and internal organizing. Such classes have proven to be valuable in helping bargaining unit leaders do their jobs more effectively.
This year, the association plans to expand this program and named Diane Salerno as its first labor educator to coordinate it. Salerno has been with NYSNA for 10 years, serving as a nursing representative, most recently at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center and Saint Vincents Catholic Medical Center. Before that she was a clinical practitioner for 19 years, working as an educational facilitator, a preceptor, and a bedside nurse in various settings.
"I hope to recognize and identify the needs of our membership," Salerno said. "The job will coordinate the talents and experience of NYSNA staff in order to further educate our members on labor issues and empower them."
Increasing visibility in New York City -
This past spring, the Delegate Assembly (NYSNAs collective bargaining leadership - all of whom are staff RNs elected from various bargaining units throughout the state) highlighted the urgent need for a Community Affairs Representative to work with the City of New York to increase the association's visibility and influence. In October, Carol Pittman was named to fill this role. Carol has a background in labor and community organizing and in adult and worker education. Most recently, she served as executive director of New York Jobs with Justice, a labor-community-religious coalition that advocates for workers rights. She will be working with the RNs of HHC (the city's public hospital system) and the mayoral agencies, helping them develop their outreach and advocacy skills - including public speaking.
"We will strengthen NYSNA's existing collaborative relationships with health care advocacy organizations and build new relationships with elected city officials and community, labor and religious leaders," Pittman said. "This will help HHC nurses to become recognized advocates for the public's health care system and educators on health care and nursing issues. In doing so, we will build a support network for HHC RNs in the communities they serve." >>>
The members gave their union a "wish list" and then offered a means to help make it come true. The union responded the way any union worth being a part of should --- it listened to its membership and took action on their direction. This is what being a "member-driven RN union" is all about.
Last edit by -jt on Dec 5, '02
Dec 5, '02
How about the salaries/benefits/perks of those in charge of the union?
Dec 5, '02
In my union, they dont get nearly as much as theyre worth.
Most of the money we pay is spent on servicing us - and the Price Waterhouse audit & financial report which each member gets a copy of proves it.
Dec 27, '02
100% of the California Nurses Association Board of Directors are working direct care registered nurses.
The elected leadership is also staff nurses.
They make the decisions and do not get paid.
So, the "PERCs" for those in charge of the union are expense paid travel and hotel for representing the nurses and advocating for patients while off duty and not being paid. (I think some contracts provide for paid days off to do union business).