2009 News

Executive Director's Column: MNA forges historic pact to create largest RN union ever in U.S.

03.15.2009

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
March 2009 Edition

Julie PinkhamExecutive Director's Column
By Julie Pinkham

When the MNA membership cast its historic vote to disaffiliate from the American Nurses Association in 2001, one of the stated goals coming out of that historic meeting was for the organization to work with other likeminded organizations to establish a powerful staff nurse-run national union to represent our interests on the national stage. At our annual business meeting in October, the membership reaffirmed this goal by passing a motion that authorized the Board of Directors to explore opportunities with other organizations to form “an independent national nurses union run by and for nurses, which would represent the majority of the nation’s unionized nurses.”

The need for a powerful national voice has never been more important. The pressure on nurses, particularly in times of financial crisis, continues to increase. Today, more and more labor organizations are seeking to represent nurses, which will only continue to result in a fractured and disjointed voice for nurses who are ill prepared to meet the challenges they face. Finally, with the election of Barak Obama and a Democratic Congress, the prospect for passage of the Employer Free Choice Act—proposed legislation to make it easier to organize nurses—is very strong, which presents a tremendous opportunity to mobilize and organize registered nurses across the nation.

In the context of our long-term goals and the challenges we face, I am happy to report that last month, a delegation from our Board participated in meetings with the recently ANA-disaffiliated group the UAN (United American Nurses)—which has over 45,000 members—and the CNA/NNOC (California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, which has over 85,000 members.

In a dramatic move to unite the power and influence of America’s leading direct care RN organizations, the MNA, United American Nurses, and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee announced an agreement to form a new, 150,000-member association—the largest RN union ever in the U.S. The new organization will be called the United American Nurses-National Nurses Organizing Committee, UAN-NNOC (AFLCIO), the three said in a joint statement issued on Feb.18.

“Under the principle that RNs should be represented by an RN union,” the statement declared, “we resolve to create a new union of staff nurse-led organizations named UANNNOC” to:

  1. “Build an RN movement in order to defend and advance the interests of direct care nurses across the country;
  2. “Organize all non-union direct care RNs (a substantial majority of the budget shall be dedicated to new organizing);
  3. “Provide a powerful national voice for RN rights, safe RN practice, including safe RN-to-patient staffing ratios and health care justice;
  4. “Provide a vehicle for solidarity with sister nurse and allied organizations around the world;
  5. “Create a national Taft-Hartley pension for union RNs.”

The joint statement also declared that central to the new organization is a guiding principle that all RNs “should be represented by an RN union.”

A Taft-Hartley pension is a union/employer run defined benefit pension with the union having equal votes with the employer. Many unions currently enjoy this benefit, but nurses do not due to their fragmentation.

Next steps

The agreement that was reached in February provides a statement of principles for the new organization. The next step in the process is for a delegation from the MNA Board to work with similar delegations from the other participating organizations to begin the work of fleshing out the details, which includes modifying the existing UAN constitution and structure to accommodate the CNA/NNOC and MNA unification and culture. Once this has been worked out, the MNA Board will craft and present to the membership a proposal which would then be voted on and ratified by the MNA membership at our annual business meeting at the MNA Convention in October.

Again, while we don’t have details at this time, we can say that the core work of the MNA, including all the current services and support for our local bargaining units will remain unchanged. The structure being developed will be focused on the creation of a vehicle for this new national body to work together as a national voice, with the principle focus being on organizing new nurses and increasing our power and clout in the health care industry.

As more information is available, it will be shared with you. Even without the specifics being worked out, we are receiving enthusiastic responses from our members who understand the importance of this long awaited development. If you have any questions about this issue, please feel free send an email to David Schildmeier, our director of public communications at dschildmeier@mnarn.org.

FPO