Standing united amidst the turmoil of health care changes
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
April 2011 Edition
By Donna Kelly-Williams
The MNA recently held its ninth annual Labor Leader Summit in Westborough. Hundreds of MNA bargaining unit leaders from across the commonwealth participated in the day-long program, and they were educated and informed about what the future will look like for unionized nurses everywhere. As part of this conversation, MNA president Donna Kelly-Williams kicked things off on the morning of March 31 with a candid welcome speech that set the tone for both the day’s activities and, more importantly, the future of unionized nursing with the MNA.
Good morning my fellow nurses, and my union sisters and brothers. My name is Donna Kelly-Williams and I am president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. It is my sincere honor to welcome you all to our ninth annual Labor Leader Summit.
Each year, the MNA’s bargaining unit leaders gather here to reconnect with old colleagues, to expand their professional networks, and to be educated on the key issues facing our unionized nurses throughout the commonwealth.
This year may prove to be the most important summit to date, as we use it to prepare our organization for what promises to be the most tumultuous, challenging and exciting periods for nursing since the great upheavals of the 1990s.
Every week we read the headlines about hospitals being bought or sold. Large hospital systems are rapidly growing and the number of stand-alone community hospitals continues to shrink. At the same time, insurers, providers and state governments are all proposing dramatic changes in hospital financing with serious ramifications for nursing practice and patient care.
Besides the headlines, we are all experiencing short-staffing, increased pressures to “move patients in and out,” and overwhelming workloads and unsafe working conditions. As we learned during last evening’s program, many hospitals are implementing programs like “Six Sigma” and “Lean Staffing”—the latest round of work restructuring. In addition, even as health care CEOs are given outrageous salaries, benefits and severance packages, we are told there is not enough money for safe staffing.
In this atmosphere of chaotic change, MNA nurses have held their own. In spite of employer demands for concessions, with few exceptions our committees have resisted takeaways at the bargaining table. However, in order to make the gains that our members need and deserve, we must look at how we are organized as a union and how we approach our work.
For example, even though we have many common employers across multiple hospitals —for example, UMass Memorial Healthcare and Partners—all too often we still act as if each hospital operates as its own entity and we attempt to address major issues with local management even though they are accountable to their overall system-wide administrators.
Today, we gather to change this dynamic. Today we will learn about the latest changes in health care in Massachusetts, hear from colleagues about successful campaigns to improve conditions for nurses, and develop action plans with nurses from across your health system network or region so that we can set the agenda for the future of health care and nursing in Massachusetts.
It has been amusing to see the recent panic within the industry over its fear of a broader MNA/NNU agenda in our state and across the nation. They are terrified at the mere prospect of all nurses coordinating their activities for concerted action.
Today, we gather to make their worst nightmare a reality.