Unionizing Frequently Asked Questions

At The Massachusetts Nurses Association/Northeast Nurses Association (MNA/NENA) we understand that taking those first steps toward an improved environment for yourself, co-workers and ultimately your patients can be difficult. You have questions and concerns…and we have the answers. 

Q. What is the first step in getting a union in my facility?

A.The first step in this process is to gauge the interest in forming a union at your facility and to set up a meeting with at least 2 like minded coworkers. This is just an informational meeting. We can tell you about MNA/NENA and you can let us know about your facility. We meet at a place and time that is convenient for you and your coworkers, in groups as small as two or as large as necessary. If you want to learn more about the next steps towards forming a union in your facility, give MNA/NENA a call at 800.882.2056 x777.

Q. What does it mean to have a union at work?

A.When a group of employees in a facility come together and form a union they gain a legally protected voice at work. Organizing a union is a right that is protected under both state and federal laws. Once unionized, your employer can no longer change existing practices without bargaining with you, the union, first. Members create a democratic workplace which promotes union members to participate in negotiations, labor/management meetings, unit union activity, and protected collective actions. Through collective bargaining, members can define the scope of nursing practice, promote high standards of nursing care, aggressively advocate for patients, and work with management as equal partners to help ensure quality care for their patients.

Q. What federal law protects the right to form a union?

A.The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed by Congress in 1935, protects the rights of employees to form, join or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their choosing, and to engage in activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or associated mutual aid or protection. In 1974 the NLRA was amended to cover employees of nonprofit health care institutions.

Q. What are my legal rights when forming a union at work?

A.You have the legal right to organize under the NLRA as described in the question above. This law protects your right to talk to co-workers about forming a union before and after work; during breaks and meal periods; and in situations at work where patients are not present.

Q. Can I be fired for joining a union?

A.Federal law explicitly forbids employers from firing you for talking about, supporting, or joining a union. Furthermore, you cannot be demoted, reprimanded, or otherwise disciplined. Also, your employer cannot threaten the loss of benefits should you unionize.

Q. What are the advantages of forming a union at work?

A.The advantages of forming a union have long been identified. These include better pension and healthcare benefits, contractual job safety protections, increased employment security and safeguards against arbitrary actions by their employers. Union members have a real legally protected voice in their workplace.

Q. Can I be forced to go on strike if we form a union?

A.NO, MNA/NENA cannot force anyone to strike. The decision to strike would be made in a democratic manner where every member in your union would vote in a secret ballot election on whether or not to strike. A strike is the most drastic weapon, and it is used with caution, careful preparation, and only as a last resort. In health care there is a legally mandated ten day notice required before you can strike, and there is involvement of federal mediators who will try to bring the sides together to avoid a strike. MNA/NENA successfully negotiates numerous contracts every year without the need to resort to strikes.