From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2008 Edition
By Beth Piknick
The following are highlights from MNA President Beth Piknick’s address to the membership at this year’s annual convention in Burlington.
As I stand before today, I do so with great pride, yet also with a sense of urgency, as I realize how much we have accomplished in the last year, yet also knowing how much farther we need to go as an organization in our struggle to stand up for the greatest profession in the world.
This speech is my opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and to project our challenges for the coming year. For me this will be the final year of my presidency, and there is so much I still want to see completed before I step down.
Looking back on the past year, we can take pride in the fact that our bargaining units have continued to grow in strength and power, achieving impressive settlements, not only for what they achieved for our nurses, but in many cases for what they have prevented— increased floating, mandatory cancellation policies and contract takeaways.
Our nursing division continues to provide thousands of hours of cutting edge education to our members, consultation on clinical issues and support at labor-management meetings to assist our bargaining units in addressing any number of clinical problems. The same goes for our staff in our health and safety division, which has helped craft key contract language and educate members about their rights and responsibilities in making their workplace safer for themselves and their patients.
And of course, our legislative division has played a major role in raising the MNA’s presence as a powerful force in the commonwealth’s health care sector. While we were all deeply disappointed by the outcome of our campaign to pass the safe staffing bill, there is no doubt that we have made this issue one of the state’s most recognizable topics in health care.
Yes, we are all disappointed by the final outcome and the last minute maneuvering to prevent final victory, but you need to know that the powers that be in the industry and on Beacon Hill were well aware that they were dealing with a real force to be reckoned with in the MNA.
In surveying the MNA landscape over the last three years of my presidency, I take great pride in knowing that we have indeed achieved much of what we set out to do with our five-year plan, with the principle goal being to make the MNA the voice of health care in Massachusetts.
Since the defeat of our bill, we have seen our opposition become emboldened in their efforts to attack our members. We are seeing more grievances and arbitrations over blatant and despicable efforts to discipline and terminate union members and particularly union leaders.
On top of this, the Federal government and numerous insurers have begun to refuse to reimburse hospitals for care that arises from complications and infections due to poor care. Rather than fix the systems that cause these errors—such as providing staffing levels that science shows will prevent them from occurring— we have seen our employers begin to target individual nurses as their way of dealing with the issue.
So what do we do? Last year, I spoke to you about the need for unity as an organization. For our bargaining units to utilize all the resources available to them at the MNA and to stand up and fight for what we know is right. In the coming year, we will need to step up those efforts.
More than ever, we need to stand together— as bargaining units, as regions, as an entire organization—to combat the punitive forces aligned against us. We must step up our efforts to educate, motivate and mobilize our rankand- file membership to unite in the fight for the integrity of our profession.
This is the challenge the Board has embraced over the last several years, in building an infrastructure of staff and resources to provide our members with the tools they need to be a force for change in their hospitals and in their communities. I urge you all to do whatever you can to utilize those resources and those tools, to empower yourselves and your colleagues to use the power we have gained for the tough fights that lie in our path.
In closing, I want to thank my great colleagues on the Board of Directors for all that they’ve done for this organization. I also want to thank the MNA staff for their tremendous work and unsurpassed talent in serving our interests. And, of course, I want to thank each and every member for their commitment to providing the quality care they do to patients under what are often deplorable working conditions.
This is your organization, this is your fight. Standing together, working together, we will win the fights we need to win. I thank you all for the opportunity to serve as your president.