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Nursing Unions: Pros and Cons

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Texas is a right-to-work state, which means even if my hospital goes union I do not have to join. Unions are limited legally by what they can accomplish for the worker, although a lot of people believe otherwise. It would be good research for you to determine what they can/cannot actually provide. A friend who used to work in CA said her major complaint was not being able to work things out between your supervisor and the staff. EVERYTHING had to be approved by the Union first. So if you are wanting off next week due to family event, you have to get it pre-approved as opposed to just asking a co-worker to switch days with you. Unions have decreased in size (all trades) because the benefits for workers that unions pushed for are mostly covered by law now. So there is little need for them.

"The benefits for workers that unions pushed for are mostly covered by law now."

Really? When did health insurance become guaranteed by law? Raises? Retirement plans? Paid vacation time, sick days, protection against being fired without just cause -- all on the law books? I missed it.

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herring_RN specializes in Critical care, tele, Medical-Surgical.

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Texas is a right-to-work state, which means even if my hospital goes union I do not have to join. Unions are limited legally by what they can accomplish for the worker, although a lot of people believe otherwise. It would be good research for you to determine what they can/cannot actually provide. A friend who used to work in CA said her major complaint was not being able to work things out between your supervisor and the staff. EVERYTHING had to be approved by the Union first. So if you are wanting off next week due to family event, you have to get it pre-approved as opposed to just asking a co-worker to switch days with you. Unions have decreased in size (all trades) because the benefits for workers that unions pushed for are mostly covered by law now. So there is little need for them.

My experience with an RN union is different. I've traded days with no problem unless the other nurse wasn't able to take an IABP patient and I was the only one on who could.

It is also OK to get a part time person to work for you. But not if it becomes overtime for the nurse working your shift. I'm sure it would be fine as far as the union is concerned but management understandably wants to avoid overtime.

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nicurn001 specializes in Psych , Peds ,Nicu.

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Being in a unionized hospital has not limited the swapping of shifts , it has the same restrictions as at any corporation ie. as long as skill mix of available staff remains ok and it doesn't place financial burden upon employer then it is OK .

What is limited is that those who were managements pets and used that power to their benefit ( eg getting choice of shifts , overtime ,vacations ), cannot negotiate for themselves , obviously if you had that power you won't be happy at its loss.It is often this group that works ardently to keep unions out of the facility

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Good point.

Thankfully, TX doesn't have nursing unions - however, that's also not a great thing either. Seems like nursing is the most back-stabbing profession I've ever witnessed. Get a complaint from someone, usually aides or someone who wants your shift/position, and it's bye-bye.

Amazing but in 2012, ONLY 13% of American workers are union. You wouldn't think so by the pull they've got in the elections coming up.

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herring_RN specializes in Critical care, tele, Medical-Surgical.

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Texas does have a union nurses.

Perhaps more will organize. Perhaps not.

Texas | National Nurses United

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Here is my take on unions:

Pros:

  • Allows the little guy to stick up for themselves against administration
  • A lot of unionized facilities I've seen actually have fairer patient ratios than non-unionized.
  • You can appeal a termination a lot easier.
  • In trouble? The existence of Weingarten Right's is at least on paper a huge pro labor provision.

Cons:

  • I've noticed in all the places I work in/applied to it's basically mandatory to join the union.
  • Does protect a a noticable number of underdeserving folks that should have been canned.
  • Sometimes those union dues seem high and for what? Sometimes people feel their interests are not being served but a select few higher ups within the union themslves.
  • In America in general, Union membership is down and it seems they've lost a lot of pull.
  • Sometimes it's a little too focused on "seniority". But in the defense of the union, my work is non unionized a lot of things are based on seniority as well.
  • Internal job positions must stay within the union for x amount of months and if not filled they can be released to the public. Ok, this one is only in one facility I've been trying to apply for since I graduated so I'm biased on thsi one.

All in all I think the existence of labor unions were partly responsible for the rise of the United States as an economic power almost a century ago and should continue to exist, but like big business if they become...well too big they come inefficient and corrupt as the corporations they are supposed to protect us from.

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Emergency RN has 30 years experience and specializes in ED, CTSurg, IVTeam, Oncology.

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As I read through this thread, one of the more hilarious observations that I've made over the years (having worked both union and non union sites) is that there is a general misconception that unions will somehow protect the lazy from being fired. So, let's turn the equation around and ask, has anyone ever seen lazy nurses or aides working in NON union jobs? I have; and plenty. IMHO, non union jobs probably have an equal number of non productive personnel; being in a union or not has nothing to do with their survival skills. The bottom line is, the ne'er do wells often know how to kiss the right booty and that's really why they stay in their positions. The fact is, that unions cannot ever protect or save a job for someone who violated company rules, that is, unless management allows it.

Frankly, having a union is rather like being Mirandized, or getting due process. Or lets put it this way, just because someone has a defense attorney doesn't mean he'll get off scott free. It just means that he will have all of his legal rights observed. Thus, having a union participate in your employment is the best way to ensure that you get all the benefits and protections as afforded by labor law.

Of course, there are corrupt organization and unions are no exception; even entire police departments have been put under federal oversight after compelling evidence that emerges of criminal wrongdoing. However, such should not be used to broad brush all police departments. Likewise, not every union is corrupt and the bulk of them are actually quite useful and helpful to their members.

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Overland1 has 22 years experience as a RN.

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The union may provide "job security" for all, but only until the money runs out. When that happens, something has to give, and the union leadership will be the last to concede anything. The union followers will suffer. :(

Just plain math (and yes, I am a "free agent").

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I work in TN where nurses are not allowed to have a union. TN is a right to work state where you can be fired and the cause for your termination does not have to be disclosed. When labor laws are broken, it is justified by the labor board because facility policy supersedes the labor laws. High patient: low nurse ratios are the staffing norm. If someone is overheard discussing unionism or collective bargaining per policy administration/HR is to be informed immediately and the organizer will face disciplinary action/ termination. If you need to work, either shut-up and take it or look for work elsewhere. The good-ol-boy system is alive and well here. Would a union improve working conditions? I don't know but I would like the opportunity to find out.

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Overland1 has 22 years experience as a RN.

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We are union at my hospital, and they fire nurses easily, it seems to me. They (Mgrs/admin) pore over every days charting on that person, find the mistakes (as no one is perfect 100% of the time), buld a case, make multiple trips to HR, then, Bye! It is kind of scary. So I don't see the union as protecting me there, at least at my hospital.

I am totally in favor of unions/labor rights, ect, but our union seems to be neglecting our hospital (out of the many area hospitals they represent) IMO. They rarely communicaete anything with us, even during the layoff threat period, ect I have been disappointed with this particular union. (But we will get emails about their State lobbying and how we should contact our representatives about this issue or that, and they seemed focused on the national climate-- like the recent strike in Chicago-- via email. But they can't seem to email us on OUR news.

I have emailed the union about this lack of communication, and they emailed back, not a reply to my concerns, but 'do i want to be a representative'....Maybe I am just not getting it.

Offering you a position as a "representative" is the first step... a great way to shut you up while the union still receives your money.

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nicurn001 specializes in Psych , Peds ,Nicu.

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Asking someone to become a representative in the circumstances described above , is simply a response to someone who has shown enough initiative to at least interact with their union , they are saying if you are interested in change why not join us and try to make that change occur . Many nurses in unions seem to forget it is not a disembodied entity that comes in like a knight in shining armor 9 or if you are anti union , some bedraggled vagabond on a dying donkey :-) ), but that they are members and they are the union so if they were active it could better represent their wishes .

Edited by nicurn001
for clarification

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