1. What do you find are some of the benefits of being in a union?
Job protection, higher wages. I make $43 an hour, which goes up to $48 an hour in three years.
2. Do you feel like it is easier, when in a union, to speak to a union representative to share your concerns about your working conditions and concerns about work?
Yes, although I have a pretty good relationship with the managers and talk to them about issues as well.
3. Who do you go to talk to if you don’t like your job on your floor when in a non- union hospital?
Depends on the hospital. Some non-union hospital managers were very responsive, others didn't care at all about my concerns.
4. Are you confident in expressing concerns to management position when not in a union?
Again, it depends on the hospital management.
5. Are you or any other nurses ever afraid to speak for patients because you would be fired? Is it easier to be fired when in a non-union hospital?
I've never been fired but it would definitely be easier to get fired at a non-union hospitals because, in a union shop, they have to follow more procedures and prove you actually did something wrong when firing you under a union contract.
6. By not firing people from unions, is the myth true, do you end up keeping the worse of the nurses?
Not really. I've seen mediocre workers in both union and non-union shops. With non-union shops managers played favorites so ... it didn't make much difference in worker quality, IMO. Non-union hospitals that pay less also tend to have more staff turnover so, they often would keep mediocre workers just because they were always so short.
7. Do nurses that work within unionized hospitals have less opportunity for promotions and growth?
It varies. Because of the seniority system, you lose some opportunities but you can also gain opportunities you otherwise wouldn't have. So it's a mixed bag.
8. In a union hospital do they promote based on seniority or skill level?
Job assignments for RN jobs are dictated by seniority but actual promotions to supervisory and other positions are based on merit. You have to take an exam, meet the various education and other job requirements as well as go through job interviews to be promoted.
9. What do you think of how ”seniority” works when in a union hospital?
I've lost jobs due to seniority but have also gained better opportunities due to seniority. Overall, I have no complaints.
10. Do you have more opportunity for growth in a non-union hospital? Is it easier to promote or seek growth opportunities within a non-union hospital because you are not affected by seniority?
Again, it depends on the management. If they play favorites and select people not based on merit then, you have a better opportunities in a union shop.
11. Do you find there is there more autonomy not being in union?
No. I feel that have more autonomy because management can't arbitrarily do things like change my assignment or work hours under union rules. As long as I'm doing my job, they pretty much leave me alone.
12. Do you have an option to be a union member at work?
Yes, you can be a union member or not if you choose but, you still have to pay the dues.
13. What are some of the disadvantages to being in a union?
In some cases, you have to a put a lot of time in and build seniority to get better positions and better working hours. And, obviously you have to pay union dues.
14. How is being in a union impact the nurse?
Just as an example .... right now management has just cut staffing on one unit so, under the union contract, we will be able to contest those staffing cuts and will probably be successful. I don't think we'd be able to do this in a non-union shop. Unless the staffing is dictated by law, management can pretty much do anything they want with staffing in a non-union shop.
15. How do you feel union’s impact nursing and health care provided to patients?
- Is it better?
Definitely better care. The fact that the unions got the ratio law passed, limiting patient loads in California, is pretty good evidence of that. California is the only state that limits patient loads, and unions are soley responsible for that accomplishment.
16. Hospitals such as Kaiser have specific nurse to patient ratio, how do non-union hospital compare?
Some non-union hospitals are really good about ratios, even going below the law requirements. Others barely comply with the law.
17. How do non-union hospitals keep their nurses happy and not overworked (without having a union rep speak for them)?
Some non-union hospitals simply don't bother ... they just keep hiring new people instead of addressing the fundamental problems. Other non-union hospitals do a better job of keeping their staff happy and don't have as much turnover. Basically it depends on whether management listens to the nurses or not.
18. What are the benefits to being in a non-union hospital?
Not paying union dues. You can potentially get better shifts and assignments faster but, in some cases, that can also be due to high staff turnover due to management problems.
19. Do you think nursing unions help nursing causes overall?
20. In the future, do you see nursing unions still being around or not?
Yes, at least in California.
21. The argument has been stated that nurses are professionals and not trades people who are part of unions, how do you feel about this?
- How do you feel nursing unions help or worsen the image of the nurse in society?
The only reason I'm making $43 an hour is because of California nursing unions so ... if being "professional" means making less money then, being considered a blue collar trades person doesn't bother me one bit.
When the nursing unions had their big fight with Gov. Schwarzenegger over ratios, some nurses disagreed with their tactics but, ultimately the public sided with the nursing unions and Schwarzenegger backed off so ... I think that unions are generally good for the image of nurses in society.
22. Some nurses strike because they want to create smaller patient to nurse ratios and increase patient safety, how do you feel this represents the nursing image overall?
Ultimately the patients are going to suffer with the status quo so, if strikes are necessary to improve care then you do what it takes to make changes.
23. How is your job impacted not being in a union?
Not as much job security, less pay. Non-union hospitals across the board in my area pay less. Generally, it's also more difficult to contest management decisions that affect patient care if you don't have a union contract.
24. What is your turnover rate at hospital? Do you feel it is less or more than what would be in a union hospital?
Turnover rate is very low ... there's actually a waiting list for jobs at my facility. No nursing shortage here, mostly due to the higher pay.
25. Do you ever have a problem with supplies being in a non-union hospital? Is there someone always backing up nurses to get supplies? Who do you go to?
I work closely with the supply department. Generally, they're very helpful.
If there is anything else you want to add please just fill it in below, thank you!
Obviously I'm pro-union but, only because I've greatly benefitted from what the unions have done for nurses in California.