Nursing unions on the verge of revolution - page 6

Article Snippet: The other day, I was talking with a hospital executive, whom I warned that nurse unionization was developing a level of momentum I hadn't seen before in my 20 years in the... Read More

  1. by   lamazeteacher
    Quote from heron "......Our retrospectroscope might show how unions could have made a difference in the quality of American cars. At the time, though, they were fighting tooth and nail over a living wage that allowed them to support families and have a reasonable retirement. " End Quote

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    I have no acquaintances who do automobile construction, but I can add:
    costly cars + highest wages for workers ever = priced out of work

    Nurses have a built in sense of improvement for their product (patients)

    Since auto workers never see their product again, or its potential owner, there's not only no incentive for excellence (just not to goof up so badly they're fired) - like the Ford I got years ago that didn't have the gas line attached, and when we went to the gas station the first time with it, gas ran over the tire underneath the gas opening, to the ground. I've wondered how many people had to goof up big time, for that to happen......

    Nurses have the ability to ask doctors how their patient who they cared for is doing, after d/c from hospital and offer regards and best wishes. Also when nurses goof up, there are repercussions (like incident reports, QI investigations, etc.)

    Since most nurses are still female, and until recently all were that, and had backgrounds that encouraged being agreeable, unions haven't been our first choice to resolve our problems. So, like "Oliver" asking for more porridge (just more inhibited), we'd just have taken a little and said it was an example being set for others who wanted more. So our negotiations usually include something to better things for others (our patients most of the time, and/or other nurses).

    Auto workers (possibly with the exception of Saturn in the beginning, if yoiu believe commercials) just take the money. The lesson they've learned in time, when their salaries became so high ($75./hour), the prices people could pay wouldn't support the cost the car would have to be for their bosses to make as much money as they wanted.

    So the bosses looked elsewhere for their money, becoming GMAC, a bank, lender (for car buyers), and car insurance companies (among other things, I'm sure); and for sure they accepted bailout money (did their employees get any? - no!).

    A reporter for CNN said yesterday in their "Meet the Press" program that GM was "really an insurance company that made a few cars". Hmmmmm, I didn't know that! So their employees were ditched, when the price of cars wasn't sellable, while the bosses were hitched to a different business, as cars weren't cost effective.

    We nurses aren't in that situation, because the companies supplying things for our work "got the drop" on us! The reason is that we make lousy business people. We don't give pens or miniature bedpans to our employers (unless they're our patients), or even a back rub! (Does anyone know how to do that? It goes from the shoulders to the bottom of the buttocks, and used to be given after the morning bed bath, and at hs - patients loved it and we felt good to have made them feel better). There's no amount of money that can top that, for me. So I earned much less for 3/4 of my career than y'all get as new grads..... Just don't price yourselves out of business, or nursing techs will increase in number, and we'll be considered a luxury.

    Look at what happened when the gas cartels donated billions toward the campaigns of politicians' who wanted construction of better roads, which also distracted us from wanting public transportation instead. So every family starts out with 2 cars, and once their children get their drivers' licenses, they get cars (not that they can afford gas or insurance for them)........ and there are no more electric buses or street cars and the air gets poluted and global warming occurs..... and we're back to the demand for cars and the producers of same having unions that get more money for the workers, and the cost of those goes up, and we have poor to no public transportation.....

    Don't get me wrong, I do support unions and recommend that nurses belong to them. Just be sure your representatives don't price you out of jobs.
  2. by   herring_RN
    I'm still driving my 1996 gold Saturn. Very reliable. It's my first new car.

    I still give backrubs. We 'old' nurses on our unit teach it to our orientees too. It is part of our routine on our 12 hour night shift.

    We unionized in the ninties. Our issues were to improve staffing and ensure suffiscient working equipment such as suction and O2 flowmeters.
    Last edit by herring_RN on May 25, '09
  3. by   blue note
    Quote from lamazeteacher
    Auto workers (possibly with the exception of Saturn in the beginning, if yoiu believe commercials) just take the money. The lesson they've learned in time, when their salaries became so high ($75./hour), the prices people could pay wouldn't support the cost the car would have to be for their bosses to make as much money as they wanted.
    The "auto workers make $75/hour" has been proven to be a myth, perpetuated by the conservative Heritage Foundation which opposed the auto industry baiilout. Looks like they succeeded because that number still gets tossed around as proof that unionized auto workers are greedy. This is not to say that there aren't problems in the auto industry, obviously, or that the auto unions don't share part of the blame. But, the $75/hour figure was arrived at because they added up wages and benefits to current and retired workers, then divided the total by the number of hours worked by current employers (see source linked above, FactCheck.org). "The automakers say that the average wage earned by its unionized workers is about $29 per hour."

    Labor costs are not the same as wages earned, and labor costs only account for 10% of the cost of producing a vehicle.

    Since most nurses are still female, and until recently all were that, and had backgrounds that encouraged being agreeable, unions haven't been our first choice to resolve our problems. So, like "Oliver" asking for more porridge (just more inhibited), we'd just have taken a little and said it was an example being set for others who wanted more. So our negotiations usually include something to better things for others (our patients most of the time, and/or other nurses).
    I agree with this, and I think another reason why nurses are divided on the union issue and some are opposed to or afraid of the idea of unionization, is partly because of misleading info out there, like the "auto workers make $75/hour wages" myth. I don't buy into the "pricing yourself out of a job" fear because if anything, I think nurses are mostly underpaid for the work they do. That said, I think nurses are not necessarily focused just on wages as a goal in unionization, but would also like to have better patient ratios, and things like actual enforcement of the break/lunch rules. It should not be acceptable to work someone for 12 hours straight without giving them any breaks, and barely time to even go to the bathroom, as some have complained about here.
  4. by   lamazeteacher
    Most employers do think of labor costs including "benefits". However, they don't go around talking about salaries that are inflated because those costs are included. That's because we almost always go the "extra mile". For example if our manager didn't allow extra staffing in the schedule during a nurse's vacation or illness, we grumble, but take on the additional load'

    The way patients : nurse ratios make our work so difficult, is because they're unrealistic - yet we plod on with the work, cutting corners to our and/or the patients' detriment. The way they got that way, was in "acuity" studies that placed numerical values on patients with dx, procedures. IVs, etc. Then they said one nurse could handle so many numbers, with which we got stuck and outmaneuvered, but again we plodded on.

    Then union reps came in and said they'd resolve the wage and ratio problems - no problem! Then they charged us a high amount to join, and somewhere during the negotiations with management, we lost a bit (or more) of the promised package. Did we fire the union? No!

    We took our wages and bought more stuff, ate out more, or whatever, and worked harder to get our work done, since it's usually the ratios that go up. The employers realize that they'd come out even if we took on more patients in our loads, and that was OK with most of us. The thing no one saw coming, is the products of stress which overworking brings along. Burnout, drug use, autoimmune illnesses, CAD, HTN, you name it, stress causes it!

    All that shortens the number of people to do the job, which brings on more stress, and the vicious circle continues to tighten around our necks. No union contract ends up with everyone happy and content with what they get. The boss has to win something!

    Without unions there's no one to negotiate better working conditions, so we grumble some more, maybe go back to school to get a higher degree so we can get out of the rat race doing something administrative. However, if job satisfaction depends on patient-nurse interaction, and we don't like all the paperwork, meetings, and telephoning involved in adfministrative work, we quit after finding something with higher pay (like home health). However most agencies hire staff part time with no benefits, and after the visit to the patient, there's an incredible amount of paperwork, which makes our hourly wage incredibly small.......

    The only way we can get reasonable assignments in hospitals, is to encourage patients fill out the "satisfaction" surveys, honestly and send them in. Most of us fear that angry patients whose needs we didn't meet will say terrible things about us and we'll lose our jobs. However if we communicate well with patients, ask them if there's "anything else I can do" before we leave them, and do it or get someone else to fulfil the need.......

    When I was in the hospital recently, I thought about what might be done to me each day, and I hadn't a clue about what goals toward attaining wellness again, would be or if they'd get done. (they didn't) Patients are in a hospital for various reasons, most of which are toward attaining "homeostasis"/better than we were when we came in. It's hard to know what orders will be written, but we do have some idea about what will have to be done for our patients. Discuss that with them, always sharing that wellness is the desired effect of everything that's done. Nurture that little child in us all, who's scared and lost by all the chaos going on in our bodies.

    Let them know that it's OK to complain about things that went wrong. Usually that involves their doctor, who never comes in to see them or tell them how they're doing, or in my case forgot to write the prescription/order at my discharge, for K after telling me that I needed it. The OTC K is insufficient. I got a low residue diet recommended without an explanation about the theory for that; and the doctor told me to eat whatever I wanted. I said, as he walked out the door, "without salt, right?"

    It's usually the doctor these days, who isn't meeting patients' needs, and charges too much. That will be revealed in the discharge survey, and we'll look great, since the patients saw that we are their allies. When our value increases, negotiations on our behalves come out better.
  5. by   Peggyfaye
    It's a darn good thing we voted the union into our hospital last autumn.
    Our (x) manager overhired, mostly new grads for our ER, in an attempt to keep nurses from voting in the union. There were so many nurses staffed in the ED that they were tripping over each other. Now that manager is gone & the layoffs have begun.
    I've been at this hospital for over 20 yrs.
    In the days before the union, I would've been the first to go & the new grads would've stayed.
    It's been a nightmare with this hospital.
    The union has been the only bright light lately.
  6. by   momatwork
    Join the ANA as a national organization to be active in your state...you don't need to pay 1% gross of your salary and more to someone else to speak for you. Why cushion the union reps purses....to the tune of six figures........... read union contracts..there are clauses in them such as "management rights" and "super seniority"....and be aware that you can gather signatures just like the union did, which they did often under false pretenses, to decertify the union at your facility as well. If a union is all about fairness, why do they insist on a closed shop? Why must everyone be a member, even those who do not want to? Because...then the union get dues from everyone!!!!!!!!
  7. by   K.P.A.
    When an individual has the option of negotiating his compensation with any of a multitude of employers, there is no need for unions. When there is one employer, or Govt. controlled wages(the equivalent), there is a place for a strong union.
  8. by   Mammy1111
    Quote from Kabin
    With Obama in the office there isn't a better time than the present for nursing unions. Heck maybe nurse unions would get majority ownership when hospitals go bankrupt.

    Nursing unions aren't much different than the American Hospital Association rallying support for hospital interests.
    How can you possibly believe this. The AHA is not at the bedside. They sit aloft in fancy offices making rules and working legders to pay them first and nurses last. AHA talks the talk but they dont' walk the walk.
    Nurses deserve whatever they can get for pay. If this means union, so be it. They also bargain for very important patient issues, such as nurse patient ratios, patient care policy, and safety issues. They bargain for continuing edcuation so their patients get the most current and best care. Does anybody really believe the AHA cares about those things like bedside nurses do? How ridiculous.
    Nurses rally for bedside hands on nursing issues, not for hospital PR. They organize and rally for excellent, safe PATIENT CARE.
  9. by   Mammy1111
    Quote from momatwork
    Join the ANA as a national organization to be active in your state...you don't need to pay 1% gross of your salary and more to someone else to speak for you. Why cushion the union reps purses....to the tune of six figures........... read union contracts..there are clauses in them such as "management rights" and "super seniority"....and be aware that you can gather signatures just like the union did, which they did often under false pretenses, to decertify the union at your facility as well. If a union is all about fairness, why do they insist on a closed shop? Why must everyone be a member, even those who do not want to? Because...then the union get dues from everyone!!!!!!!!
    Yes, they do get dues from everyone because they are obligated to represent everyone. There are always those who would love to sit on the fence and take from the union and also from the management. But, when a union is voted in, then those nurses....ALL of them.... are represented by the union. ALL the nurses benefit from negotiations and ALL the nurses are represented in grievances. So, ALL of them should pay dues. It is not fair to benefit from a contract in both monetary and professional ways and not pay your dues.
  10. by   lindarn
    Quote from Mammy1111
    Yes, they do get dues from everyone because they are obligated to represent everyone. There are always those who would love to sit on the fence and take from the union and also from the management. But, when a union is voted in, then those nurses....ALL of them.... are represented by the union. ALL the nurses benefit from negotiations and ALL the nurses are represented in grievances. So, ALL of them should pay dues. It is not fair to benefit from a contract in both monetary and professional ways and not pay your dues.
    I have ALWAYS been of the opinion, that if a person does not want to pay to belong to a union, that represents THEM, as well as dues paying members, that they should not be entitled to the pay increases, benefits, etc, that paying union members get. Period.

    Either that, or have a closed shop. JMHO and my NY $0.02.

    Lindarn, Rn, BSN, CCRN
    Spokane, Washington
  11. by   momatwork
    MammyIII,
    The union is never obligated to represent everyone. I know of no union with an "open shop", that is, where you have a choice to join the union or not. To have a 51% majority rule, means that the potential for 49 out of 100 nurses do not want a union at their facility. It is not a matter of sitting on a fence, but only a difference of opinion, and asking the union recognize that yes, others do have opinions as well. If the union allowed an open shop, then 49% would not pay dues, and hence, decreased revenue for the union. The "no" voters would then have their own benefits and be able to communicate directly with Administration. There is no worry of a strike over their heads, or every 2 years beset with negotiations. While you may benefit from some negotiations, there is no benefit to a strike.
  12. by   Mammy1111
    If a majority of nurses in a facility votes to have a union, that union represents all of the staff nurses in that facility. That is a fact. They negotiate benefits, education, seats on patient care committees, staffing ratios, grievance procedures, etc for all the staff nurses in that facility. Thus, the entire staff of nurses benefits from that union's work.
    They also represent all staff nurses in grievance procedures whether they voted for the union or not, and whether they like the union or not.
    So, with a majority vote, the union does indeed represent all the staff nurses in that facility. The nurses who are against the union are also represented. So, if you get the benefits, you must pay just as all the others do. Nobody said you have to like it, but majority rules.
    Sorry, but I do believe that most nurses who don't want a union are fence sitters. Its just my humble opinion. I organized a union years ago and I have first hand experience with this. The few nurses who were against the union in that hospital were unassertive, intimidated, fence sitters. And they remained that way even after the abuse and blatant disrespect handed out by the administration of that particular hospital. This is not a general statement and it does not mean that all hospitals or administrators are that way.
  13. by   CraigB-RN
    I don't want a union because in my personal anecdotal experience, things got worse when the two agencies I worked for unionized. All it did was an another level of bureaucracy on top of what was already there. In one place the company lost a state contract, due to "labor uncertainties". In the second, when we went back and looked later, there was a higher average increase in salaries in the years before.

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