News & Events

Executive Director’s Column: The movement has begun

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2010 Edition

Executive Director’s Column
By Julie Pinkham

In 2009, MNA members took the bold step to form the largest national nurses union in the United States—NNU. That effort, done in difficult economic times revealed the guts of who you are—unabashed, fearless, relentless leaders for a better future. It is what I love about this work—standing side-by-side with you as the industry slings its stones, we swing away—picking each other up and moving ahead, knowing we can and will prevail. While battles are won the war rages on—but with your vision we have not balkanized our future, we have embraced the possibilities. Setting aside fear and petty politics and most of all, setting aside hubris—the malignant ego that undercuts all hope of vision and success. I watch as the provincial lines of organizations are set aside and the talent and depth of passion grow exponentially to win on behalf of our practice and our patients. Whether we walk with the nurses in D.C. or Minneapolis; organize nurses in places such as Texas where nurse unions have never been; both lend help and receive help and expertise from others; the possibilities for our future grow.

I am indeed an optimist. Because I believe in you and all that you can do, I look to each threat as rife with possibilities—opportunities for you to seize, as I, along with the staff of MNA and now the staff of the NNU, work to provide you with whatever you need to seize those opportunities. What we must do, is to believe in each other—to trust—to realize that the strategy and tactics of the past, may indeed not be the best strategies and tactics for now or our future—to reassess, and not let familiarity breed indecisiveness, fear and provincialism. What was the best strategy to fight the industry previously needs to be rethought, our tactics reassessed. This deregulated industry is indeed moving toward corporate networks that will consolidate and centralize their power and likely move across state lines. To effectively fight the industries desire to lower our standards, we must be willing to reassess our strengths and move forward with new strategies and tactics, even when it feels uncomfortable.

I have seen you all do this time and time again, and indeed that time has come again. In these last years I have watched bargaining units grapple with how best to move forward to create power for members. Whether it is a small unit like North Adams having the early vision to take a strike vote and force the issue of a Taft-Hartley pension forward or those other units like Cooley Dickenson and Morton nurses who similarly fought back pension cuts and further moved the Taft-Hartley pension concept forward, and nurses at UMass who have begun the work of uniting their two largest bargaining units to better control their future within a major central mass network, or more recently, with the nurses of Caritas, under the first ever acquisition by a private equity firm and the potential closure of two hospitals, to sit together—at one table—to jointly bargain a better future. The willingness to step outside the comfort zone, see the possibilities and be willing to lead, has put you at the precipice of making history—creating what members have sought for a better future—a Taft-Hartley defined benefit pension fund. This dream would not have come without the culmination of effort of those units I mentioned earlier—the resources and exchange of strategy with NNU, providing the venue for nurses to meet and strategize with other nurses already jointly bargaining, that experience led to the Caritas nurses taking on their pension battle in joint bargaining.

And if that weren’t enough—their efforts didn’t simply kick the door open for the currently organized, they laid the ground work to build their collective power by assuring a neutral environment for nurses in Caritas/Steward health care who have been waiting and want to be part of MNA and NNU. We look forward to NNU working with us to see the nurses at Holy Family, St Anne’s, the Caritas VNA and others organize in the coming year.

If it’s right, we can get there—it has never been in my mind a matter of whether you’ll achieve something—just simply a matter of when. Safe staffing will and must be one of those achievements, whether on a national or state level—it cannot be whether we win it—it must be when.

As this movement gains its momentum, it is important to assure that the elected leadership and the governance of your organization allow you to move forward—not backward, or stalling, as the quicksand environment of health care change expands all around us. You will face some of these decisions today and I look forward to continuing to work with the member leaders, your president Donna Kelly-Williams, Vice President Karen Coughlin, the elected Board of Directors as well as the many leaders here today that I have had the direct pleasure of working with and the great staff of the MNA and the NNU. Get ready, keep moving forward, I have no doubt 2011 will be another wild year as we add to growing success. And as always, I thank you all for letting me be part of it all.

Presented to the MNA membership at the 2010 business meeting at the annual convention.