Unions - Yay or Nay?

Updated | Posted
by Kiwi82 Kiwi82, BSN, RN Member

Has 17 years experience.


newyorkrn, BSN, RN

Specializes in PICU. Has 1 years experience. 27 Posts

I don't have experience, but I'm following because I'd love to know as well!



336 Posts

I'm biased- I work in a hospital represented by a union and have for the entirety of my nursing career. We have a strong union.  My comment here is going to sound like I'm trying to recruit you. I'm pro union but wish it wasn't necessary. Besides, there are other things I could do with the money used for union dues. But I think it is necessary- I don't like paying taxes either, but it's how the world works.

What I have experienced is that with the union you know exactly what you're going to get- the contract is there so both the employee and employer know what is expected and there is no mystery with compensation, benefits or discipline.

The only reason the debate about unions exists is because companies have used consultants and the PR industry to sow the seeds of doubt inserting magical thinking such as "I'm a free individual American citizen, I can bargain for myself and do better than these schleps without having to pay for these expensive union dues" and Americans end up accepting worse compensation and benefits as Americans have for over 40 years now.

I have heard some (not many) complain about the union where I work, mostly it's about the union not doing enough or the monthly fee we pay for representation. Those people have not considered all the history of benefits the hospital wanted to decrease or remove. The question I ask is if they've ever participated in the union- ever been to a meeting? They never have.

I know many good nurses who had problems with a bad manager and would have been fired if not for the union. Regarding the union dues, we have received much more compensation in the form of raises- I view the dues as a wash. Direct benefits of the union in the time I've worked here, among other things in our contract:

-wouldn't have bargained for raises I.e. either not gotten any or much much less.

-they would have given us garbage medical insurance

-we would easily be mandated for shifts

-we would have worse or no differential pay.

-the pay in our area with good union representation has actually helped raise the pay in the surrounding areas without good union representation.

-removes discrimination in pay. Doesn't matter your age, sex, ethnicity, no favoritism, yada yada yada. The pay chart is right there.

Unions depend on participation of their members or at least agreement on what they bargain. If you live somewhere where people have bought into the idea that unions are a bad deal, it's the only thing that would make me think twice about working in a union.



Specializes in RN. Has 3 years experience. 421 Posts

I've been part of bigger, strong Unions, and these I would support 100%. Currently I was in a small, amalgamated union, which is basically worthless. I am currently wondering how to expose the corruption I see. The Union rep is besties with the DON, receives special treatment, and so does her "little boy" who she is mentoring. It's pathetic. They don't represent anyone, they turn people in and tattle to the DON over trivial stuff. They receive bonuses that no one else receives. 

Leader25, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 39 years experience. 1,294 Posts

On 3/7/2022 at 1:27 PM, Kiwi82 said:

Have any of you worked for a hospital that became unionized while you were there? Pros and Cons?

Yup,it was a great learning experience,how things work,political activisim,negotiating skills,and....standing up for myself while risking job....learning about those who will betray you,put the union down but never give back the raise,LOL.

Some anti union  co workers knew the contract better than the union leadership,especially when it came to enforcing union benefits.

It is a battle with mgmt that never ends, many of us became persona non grata,never eligible for any type of work recognition nor  awards.The mgmt was always waiting for us to trip up,so you had to be on your A game every day.But we learned to fight back,push back,had some strikes,and in the end the Alien had plenty of dough they were holding out on,while making us for free(no OT pay) and breaking the labor laws.

Hope you find a good place.

The so called professional nursing associations were weak versions,in bed with mgmt, not worth the dues.Stay away from those hospitals,.Look up the nurse who got Ebola...


AlwaysTiredNP, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Emergency Medicine. Has 10 years experience. 40 Posts

If the union is active, it’s a yay for me.  Better working conditions, better pay. Good benefits and better protections.

Kitiger, RN

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 43 years experience. 1,722 Posts

I cannot find it in my heart to go on strike, so I would have to say nay. I understand that many nurses believe strongly that by going on strike they are making things better for their patients. My problem is that they are focused on their future patients while I am focused on my current patients. 

I worked in a non-union hospital while the other hospital in town was unionized. When they went on strike, we took care of the patients who needed to be hospitalized. We were overflowing with patients. The hardest for me were the ones who needed open heart surgery but were denied. I knew of one who went to Canada to get his needed surgery done. And I got to know another who lived in our hospital until it was too late for the surgery to help her. 

Tenebrae, BSN, RN

Specializes in Mental Health, Gerontology, Palliative. Has 10 years experience. 1 Article; 1,775 Posts

I'm a union gal

We have NZNO which is a nationwide union. The DHB meca is incrediblty strong, including time and a half on weekends. Penal rates for afternoons and night shifts. Public holidays double time plus a day in lieu. Have just changed jobs and got holiday leave and 8 lieu days paid out. Nice to have a padding in the bank account now. 

The bigger the union the more likely you will actually achieve the sort of change you want to see.