scab nursing


tonight at work, my coworkers and I saw a fax came through around 5pm, mentioning a 'possible nursing strike' at an unnamed hospital in my state. The only other information provided was the maximum weekly pay, the need for a one-week minimum, vague mentions of all-expenses paid for transportation/lodging, and a phone number to contact if interested. When someone mentioned that they might call, another (very experienced) nurse said that they would be considered a 'scab nurse' if they crossed the picket line to work at the facility where such grievances are present.

I've never heard this term used before, although I can gather that stepping in to work at a facility where nurses are on strike doesn't exactly get greeted with smiles from colleagues. Where did it come from? Have any members of the board ever been a part of this kind of nursing? What's it like on the other side, to be the nurses that utilize collective bargaining to meet their needs?

klone, MSN, RN

14,412 Posts

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 17 years experience.

"Scab" is considered a derogatory term (I used it here once and was roundly chastised).

I would never do it, but more due to fear of personal harm than out of allegiance.

Those who do travel nursing might do this quite often, although I imagine that many travel nurses would turn down a strike assignment.

MN-Nurse, ASN, RN

1,398 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg - Renal.

The hiring of replacement nurses is something the striking nurses know must occur. They (the striking RNs) know patients cannot go completely without care.

It is the cost of the "scabs" or replacements that places a burden on the hospital.

I'm in a union and if I went on strike I would wish only the best for the RNs brought in to take care of people.

Specializes in Hospice.

"scab' is generally the deragotorry term for people that cross lines at factories and a hospital replacement nurses are a must during a strike.

TriciaJ, RN

4,295 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 42 years experience.

I wouldn't cross a picket line to undermine anyone's collective bargaining efforts. Striking nurses generally provide critical care staffing pools for the sickest patients. Most nurses will not strike on a whim or for better pay (as the media likes to imply). When nurses strike it's almost ALWAYS an issue of appropriate staffing levels and safe patient care. Why would you want to undermine anyone's effort to achieve that?

I've worked where there is a union contract and I've worked places without a union contract. Guess which I'd choose every time? And I would dumpster-dive before I would undermine other nurses.


852 Posts

Specializes in none.

I tried it once but here in Jersey they were throwing lead around and about. So I quit. It can get pretty ruff. It was a time when people just wanted to bring the hospital to a stop. The hell with the patients.

They wanted more pay and benefits. After ten days of the supervisors taking care of the patients. The strike was over. The nurses won. But for years after the nurses that did not strike were looked down as Scabs not to be trusted. This was back in the 70's.


861 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg. Has 4 years experience.

I heard a couple of nurses from my hospital went to CA and supposedly made fantastic money as scabs. More power to them. I don't believe in unions for middle to upper middle class workers, so I'd be very comfortable doing the same should the opportunity arise.

Flo., BSN, RN

571 Posts

Specializes in Developmental Disabilites,. Has 7 years experience.

I strongly believe in unions. I would never cross a picket line.


525 Posts

"scab' is generally the deragotorry term for people that cross lines at factories and a hospital replacement nurses are a must during a strike.

a scab by any other name is still a scab...Hospitals on the verge of a strike often contract with out of state nurses,,provide lodging, transportation, and sizeable salaries-and patient care often suffers...maybe hospitals should try to treat employees to the same "ride" that scabs are offerred...


45 Posts

Specializes in Oncology, Emergency.

Its amazing when i see people say we don't need any union and yet they come crying to AA when the Sh*t hits the fan. I see people cry about having 10 ER patients, 7 Medsurg Patients or even 4 ICU patients . I see people cry how they got laid off without reason since their boss hates them or even fired without any investigation. So many complains and yet when offered a chance to unionize they claim they are better for those who don't want to unionize and have an opportunity i say tough luck.

Back to the topic:

1. Union forever ; i would never cross a picket line.

2. Yes they are scabs...the money is good..there were rumors about people making almost $1500 for working a 12 hour shift + Transportation, accommodation...

3. We don't unionize for money...we unionize for better working conditions, patient safety, better treatment of workers....that's why i gladly pay my union dues and i see them work. 5 % increases a year, Patient ratios enforced; Clear guidelines on clinical ladder advancement, no mandatory overtime, no work place harassment , unfair firing practices e.t.c....> that's what a union is for. My union has fought for 3 successive contracts where i get free medical, dental and vision coverage....corporate attempted to take it once but we held six 1 day strikes and they got the message..yet they earned billions and claimed to be non-profit.

Its not easy to be unionized; sacrifices have to be made. Its ridiculous when people buy management's position that unions will create loss of jobs ...blah...blah...> Yet same management withhold opportunities, wages,pay the CEO and other executives millions , benefits e.t.c ...but when it comes to nursing they downsize departments, don't hire enough staff and don't even pay them reasonable wages. Wake up people...smell the coffee


33 Posts

Specializes in Labor & Delivery. Has 2 years experience.

Although I personally would not strike nurse, the nurses on strike have to realize that SOMEONE needs to take care of the patients.

It's a union term for strikebreakers. It doesn't come from nursing specifically.