Mass. Nurses Association joins two others to create a massive, nationwide union
Massachusetts Nurses Association teaming up with 2 other groups to create huge union
By Jon Chesto
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Feb 19, 2009 @ 09:29 AM
CANTON— The Massachusetts Nurses Association is teaming up with two larger nurses organizations to create a union with a national scope and nearly 150,000 registered nurses as members.
The new union will be called the United American Nurses-National Nurses Organizing Committee. Representatives from the Massachusetts Nurses Association in Canton said the structure of the new parent organization has yet to be determined. Members of all three participating unions still need to vote on the proposed merger.
Like the Massachusetts nurses group, the other two participating organizations – the California Nurses Association and United American Nurses – have all broken away from the American Nurses Association, according to Julie Pinkham, the MNA’s executive director.
“We need to have a national voice,” said Beth Piknick, the president of the MNA and a nurse at Cape Cod Hospital. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time, since we left the American Nurses Association (in 2001).”
One reason behind the Massachusetts group’s departure from the ANA was the difference in opinion between the two groups regarding mandatory nurse-patient staffing ratios in hospitals. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has been a vocal advocate of a ratio requirement in this state for many years.
A new national organization will help the Massachusetts Nurses Association lobby for its interests in Washington and expand organizing efforts outside the Bay State, MNA officials said.
Pinkham said she expects her group’s name will remain, even while it becomes part of a bigger organization. She said she didn’t expect staffing changes at the Canton headquarters because of the change, although it’s possible some staff members could be placed in roles that have a more national scope.
Pinkham said the new national organization also needs to craft a constitution for itself and its three member organizations. Pinkham said it’s too early to know what kind of impact the national affiliation will have on members’ union dues. She also said it’s not clear where the new national group’s headquarters will be or how many additional staff members would be needed.
“One thing we’re not interested in doing is creating another layer of bureaucracy,” Pinkham said.
Piknick said she expects the members of her organization will likely vote on joining with the other two union groups at its annual convention in October.
The Canton-based organization has about 23,000 members, who collectively have 85 contracts with health care facilities in the state.
Jon Chesto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beau of National Affairs
Three Nurses Unions Plan to Create
New Group of 150,000 RNs Nationwide
February 19, 2009
Three nurses’ unions that together currently represent some 150,000 registered nurses announced Feb. 18 they have agreed in principle to band together to form a new national union, with the major goal of organizing nurses across the country.
The new union, to be called the United American Nurses-National Nurses Organizing Committee, would combine the memberships of the United American Nurses, which represents some 45,000 RNs; the California Nurses Association, which represents more than 80,000 RNs; and the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents some 23,000 RNs.
There have been unofficial discussions among the three unions over a period of time. Representatives of the three unions met in California Feb. 16-17 “to give one big push to see if this is what we want” and if so, “what we believe in, “ according to UAN President Ann Converso. Once that was determined, the representatives hammered out principles and goals for the new group, she said.
The organizations adopted a statement resolving to “create a new union of staff nurse-led organizations,” and set out the following five goals for the union:
- build an RN movement to defend and advance the interests of direct care nurses;
- organize all nonunion direct care RNs, with a majority of the national budget dedicated to new organizing;
- provide a national voice for the rights of nurses and safe RN practices, including nurse-to-patient staff ratios;
- provide a vehicle for solidarity with other nurses and allied groups around the world; and
- create a national Taft-Hartley pension plan for unionized nurses.
All Three Groups Formerly Belonged to ANA
Many staff nurses have wanted a national union led by RNs for a long time, but that was not possible until UAN was no longer part of the American Nurses Association, Julie Pinkham, the executive director of MNA told BNA Feb. 18. She noted that all three groups had been part of ANA at one time and had left the association, which was headed by nurses who did not deliver direct patient care. CNA left in 1995, while MNA left in 2001 (84 DLR A-6, 5/1/01).
UAN had been an autonomous affiliate of ANA since the parties signed a five-year affiliation agreement in January 2003. In January 2008, however, ANA notified UAN that it was terminating the affiliation agreement when it was due to expire June 30 (22 DLR C-1, 2/4/08). In October, delegates to the UAN’s National Labor Assembly approved amendments to the constitution removing references to ANA, and no longer requiring UAN affiliates to be members of ANA.
Poised to Organize RNs Under EFCA
Officials of all three unions expressed confidence that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act will be passed this year and they want to move quickly in order to be poised to organize nurses under that law. Contending that nurses will be ripe for unionization under EFCA, Deborah Burger, one of four nurses who make up the CNA Council of Presidents, said that “if we don’t step up to the plate” and form this new union, nurses will be organized by various unions. RNs need to be in a union for and led by nurses, she said, adding the “time is now.”
Officials of all three unions express confidence that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act will be passed this year and they want to move quickly in order to be poised to organize nurses under that law.
CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro told BNA that currently nurses are in 15 different unions. Teachers and firefighters are unified but “everyone thinks that nurses should be picked off,” she said. “RNs need to speak with a unified voice,” she said, and this is an “enormous vehicle to make that happen.”
Some officials of CNA and MNA told BNA that there are many details to be worked out, but they anticipate that the new organization could be in place fairly quickly. But the presidents of MNA and UAN were not as positive that the details can be worked out quickly.
Burger said all three groups committed to “move forward quickly” and have scheduled further meetings for the week of Feb. 23 to work out the details of the new organization. She added that she envisioned details being worked out in less than a month.
Converso told BNA while the group has set up “goals and parameters,” this is just the beginning of a process. “It’s easy to say you have principles, but creating an organization is extremely difficult and there is a lot of hard work ahead,” she said.
MNA President Beth Piknick said that it would be up to delegates to her union’s convention to vote on a final plan. MNA has scheduled a convention for October, Piknick said, adding that she does not anticipate that a vote could take place before then considering the details that need to be worked out and the amount of information that would need to go to the membership.
But, Pinkham told BNA that the union could decide to schedule the convention early. She added that she hopes the three unions can “hash out the details over the next two weeks” to have a plan ready for UAN to take to its National Labor Assembly (NLA) in March.
The regularly scheduled NLA will take place March 9-10 outside of Washington, D.C. Converso said she believes NLA delegates might discuss and adopt a resolution about the new union, but doubts there will be any constitutional changes made at that time. She said she intends to go forward with the current plans for the NLA to discuss ways to “shore up” UAN, which lost more than of its membership in the last two years, including discussion of a dues increase.
In late 2007, several state nurses’ associations including New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington disaffiliated from UAN, citing the union’s continued discussions with the Service Employees International Union about a possible affiliation as a major reason for the action (246 DLR A-16, 12/24/07). The talks with SEIU broke off shortly thereafter.
Several of the leaders of the three unions said they do not want to limit the organization, but would like to include other RNs, including those that disaffiliated from UAN.
CNA’s DeMoro said she wants the state nurses’ associations that left UAN to join the new organization, contending it would be an “even more powerful organization” with them in it.
UAN’s Converso said every nurse organization that represents RNs and is interested in having a conversation would be welcome in the new union. She added she would be willing to talk to the other state associations if they were interested in the new group’s principles.
However, Susan King, the executive director of the Oregon Nurses Association, indicated that the groups that left UAN are in the process of “deciding how to approach our own work.”
King expressed surprise at the announcement about the new union, stating she was “not aware it was in the works. At least two of the unions have not had a good history and I’m surprised they would combine,” she told BNA Feb. 18.
King was referring to CNA and UAN, which have been at odds with each other for a number of years.
King also indicated that while ONA would agree with CNA and UAN is some areas, such as nurses should be represented by nurses, ONA differs from the other unions because “this is not a top down organization. It is run by the members and we believe that is the way an organization ought to be run.”