2009 News

In these tough times, you need a strong voice

04.15.2009

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
April 2009 Edition

Julie PinkhamPresident's Column
By Beth Piknick

In these tough economic times, the need for a united and powerful voice in your workplace has never been more important. As financial pressures mount, hospitals too often attempt to cut costs on the backs of their nurses and at the expense of the quality and safety of patient care.

We have heard from nurses, particularly non-union nurses, about numerous concerns that impact your clinical practice and satisfaction with your work, including:

  • Chronic short staffing on certain units
  • Widespread floating of nurses without regard for standards of nursing practice and without proper orientation and competencies
  • Mandatory overtime and mandatory on-call policies as an alternative to providing adequate staffing
  • Mandatory cancellation of shifts, or flexing down, to save the hospital money, regardless of your needs, and the needs of your patients
  • Reductions in benefits, including increases in health insurance costs, cuts to earned time benefits, etc.

These decisions have been made in the wake of years of many hospitals in Massachusetts making millions of dollars in profits from your hard work, after investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new buildings and after paying your CEOs and upper management exorbitant salaries and benefits. In good times and bad, it is the nurses who provide 90 percent of the clinical care, and according to the best scientific research, nurses have a positive impact on hospitals financial performance. Yet when times get tough, nurses too often are thrown under the cost-cutting bus.
Right now, without a union, individual nurses have little or no power to combat changes in your practice or in your workplace that negatively affect you or your patients. However, by forming a union with the MNA nurses can enjoy the power and protection of collective bargaining and collective action.

The right to organize a union is protected activity under both state and federal laws. Once unionized, members create a democratic workplace. You elect your own leaders, you determine the issues you want to address and, through legally protected collective action and contract language, you have the power to secure benefits and working conditions that promote quality patient care and foster professional growth.

MNA: the power behind your practice
Since its founding in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has been the most powerful and effective voice on nursing and health care issues in the state. Today, the MNA is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the commonwealth and the third largest in the nation, representing more than 23,000 members, working in 85 health care facilities, including 51 acute care hospitals (70 percent of the acute care market). The MNA is also expanding its power by forging a preliminary agreement with the United American Nurses and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee to form the largest national union of nurses in the history, with 150,000 nurses coast to coast.

MNA union members are the highest paid nurses in the state and among the highest paid in the nation, with a host of industry leading benefits and protections guaranteed by their union contract.

In organizing with the MNA, you are joining an organization with the experience, power and expertise to help you work with other nurses at your facility, as well as in your region, state and across the nation to enhance your professional practice, as well as improve your pay, benefits and working conditions.

For example, MNA union members at other facilities have already negotiated landmark contract language that addresses many of the issues you now face, including union contract language to:

  • Prevent or limit floating and, when floating is necessary, to ensure nurses are competent and have been oriented to practice safely
  • Prohibit or severely limit mandatory cancellation of shifts or flexing down of nurses
  • Place strict limits or outright prohibiting of shift cancelation
  • Prevent mandatory overtime and mandatory on-call
  • Regulate the introduction of new technologies
  • Mandate regularly scheduled labor-management meetings where nurses’ issues can be addressed

If you want to claim your power as a nurse and as a professional to improve the conditions at your hospital, you can begin the process by calling the MNA today for more information or to schedule a meeting with an MNA representative about organizing with MNA. Please call the MNA’s division of organizing at 781.830.5777 or via e-mail at enorton@mnarn.org

FPO