please educate me Should I get a position in union vs nonunion facility?

Nurses Union


Okay, I have heard lots of ramblings on this site about unions vs nonunions. I would, once and for all, like to set the record straight. google search and the search on this website aren't giving me the entire picture so...

Should a new graduate of a nursing school WANT to work in a unionized or non-unionized place and why? What are the pros/cons of each?


for the record - i've never held a union job. that said, my family members were union members from the beginning (great-grandpa was a "sit-down" striker in flint michigan).

there are many things left out of your history books - most notably the crimes of corporations.

"their baptism by fire came on jan. 11, 1937, when guards at fisher two refused to allow food in. outside pickets brought food in by ladder to the second floor, but the guards then confiscated the ladder. then the police began to surround the plant. pickets swarmed to the gate. twenty inside strikers, with homemade clubs, demanded the guards open the gate. when the guards refused, they forced the gate open. the police fired tear gas and vomit-inducing gas (of which gm had its own private stockpiles)."

" in a gamble that would prove successful, they chose to occupy chevrolet nine, and to leak word of the occupation to draw the guards away from chevy four. after being told at a meeting they were needed at chevy nine, scores of pickets, half of them from the women’s auxiliary and the women’s emergency brigade, converged on the plant. when the cops fired gas into the plant, attempting to smother its occupants, the women smashed the windows to allow the gas to escape. combat with the police left many strikers bloodied and bruised, but the police retreated in the face of such determination.

"a lot, he explains, were young guys since gm usually threw a man out by the time he was 40."

"the sit-downers of '37 went on to lead the fight for the contractual rights which are now under severe attack: seniority, a grievance procedure, vacation pay, cola, pensions, 30 and out retirement, medical insurance, etc. "

a little research will show you that the ada and your wage&hour laws are pretty much toothless. a union at least gives you a chance to fight unfair or illegal behavior by your employer without ponying up for a lawyer yourself.

i'm sure you'll hear about how this is a "different time" - but the fact remains, corporations will try to get away with whatever they can to make a buck - corporations do not have morals, they have shareholders.

I'll take a shot at it here.

I'm from the strongly pro-union side. There won't be anyone who is truly "objective" on this subject - the best you can do is look at the pro and anti- arguments and use your critical thinking skills to decide which are more plausible and believable.

For context: I'm an RN since 1981, always at the same workplace. Was in management for 13 years, then stepped back to being a staff nurse. Help lead the organizing campaign at my hospital in 2000. Have served on the bargaining team for all of our contracts, am chief steward at my hospital and a member of the national board of my union.

For the last 40 years or so, there has been a massive, well financed and coordinated effort to saturate all Americans with anti-union propaganda. Anyone growing up in America during that time has been exposed to masses of it. At the same time, too many unions in this country have failed in their real mission of representing the needs of all workers and of the working class in general. Too many unions have become vehicles to protect the narrow interests of their members and sometimes of their staff and leaders, rather than the fighters for justice that they ought to be. Despite that though, the best unions remain the last real forces for justice and a decent standard of living.

And the best nursing unions are the most effective fighters for patient care and a health care system that works for everyone, not just the corporate elites.

So that's sort of the big picture. At the level of the average nurse, a union work place will have somewhat better wages, much better benefits, the protections of a "just cause" standard for discipline and some sort of mechanism to make nurses voices heard on patient care issues. The stats show that the economic advantages alone are always substantially more than the cost of dues.

I'm a big believer in nurse-run unions for nurses. Because many of the state nurses associations chose not to do collective bargaining, a lot of nurses have never had a nurse-run union for nurses only in their area. So a lot of non-nurse unions have organized some nurses to fill the gap. My feeling is that those unions don't do as good a job as unions that represent only nurses and are run by nurses. With the advent of NNOC a few years ago and NNU more recently, nurse organizing is going national and in the next few years nurse-run unions will be available almost everywhere in the country.

I sometimes volunteer to help on organizing campaigns and nurses ask me in those: "So what's the bad side of being in a union?" My answer to that is that if there is any negative, it's that a union won't work without the participation of its members. If you and everyone else just joins and pays dues and does nothing else, your union will be ineffective and could easily become one of those unions that goes down a bad road. What makes a good union is the active involvement of the members. And that means a little bit of volunteer time. At a bare minimum, reading the information you are sent and showing up for a meeting now and then. Maybe a rally once in a while. Better yet, volunteering to serve as a steward or maybe as a bargaining team member. The union is its members - without member involvement, it doesn't work.

I'll leave it at that and we'll see what else you get here.

Specializes in CVICU/SICU.

If you are considering working in a union facility, make certain you are actually represented by a union, and not just paying dues to an organization like the SEIU. My facility is represented by the SEIU, and the staff would DEARLY love to rid the building of them, and bring an actual nursing union in.

OP, I have worked as a nurse for many years with non of them being in unionized facilities. I have never had anything but good experiences. The union side likes to whip up hysteria in order to make it easier to unionize facilities. You also have to take into account that you may have to walk out on your patients some day or face termination and/or humiliation. Ask yourself how well that goes with your ethics as a healthcare provider?! How about going from a performance based system to one that is senority based? How about having to pay to have a job, I personally like my job to pay me, not the other way around. Just a few things to think about......

Specializes in Psych , Peds ,Nicu.
op, i have worked as a nurse for many years with non of them being in unionized facilities. i have never had anything but good experiences. the union side likes to whip up hysteria in order to make it easier to unionize facilities. this is a fallacy , nurses are intelligent enough to see when hysteria is being whipped up , if nurses had no greivance with their management , it would be very hard to creat enough of a sense of grievance to get a yes vote fora union you also have to take into account that you may have to walk out on your patients or is it better to continue to perpetuate poor staffing which puts those same patients at continous risk of poor outcome , when nurses strike , management is given enough forewarning to make alternate arrangements , if they fail to do so it is management that is putting patients at risk ( they could have stopped non urgent admissions , transferred patients , recruited an adequate number of strike breakers or heaven forbid genuinely negotiated with the staffs representatives , the union . some day or face termination and/or humiliation. ask yourself how well that goes with your ethics as a healthcare provider?!as i have just said above so i can honestly say i feel my ethics as a professional healthcare provider are unblemished as rather than tolerate my patients being at constant risk of poor healthcare provision , due to inadequate staffing, within the legal framework i am prepared to put pressure upon my employer to provide , over the longterm , better care to the patients . how about going from a performance based system unfortunately these systems are too open to favoritism , if your bosses pet you are more likely to get a good evaluation and are too heavly dependent upon documentation of clases attended or membership of commitees , which although showing ability to accumulate knowledge does not show ability to apply that knowledge to patient care to one that is senority based?this system can reward nurses who have dedicated their care as bedside nurses accumulating practical knowledge at the bedside , to promote the well being of the patients how about having to pay to have a job, i personally like my job to pay me, not the other way around. just a few things to think about......

if you don't like the terms and conditions of employment your employer offers ( remember that management is a party to the contract , so they accepted the clause that says you must pay dues to work at the facility ), then as is the usual response of those who espouse indvidual responsibility / anti union position look for a job elsewhere ( surely you wouldn't want to continue to work for an employer that makes you have to pay to work there ?!). i believe if a service is provided ( in this case it is the services / support a duly elected union provides ) then i am obliged to pay for it

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