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They came like thieves in the night, their goal simple: to “steal” their way into one or more of the Tenet-run Houston hospitals. Their arrival wasn’t completely unexpected, it’s just that the Registered Nurses at CyFair, Northwest and Park Plaza, weren’t the ones that had invited them. Instead, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (C.N.A./N.N.O.C.) came under a rather notorious arragement known as a “neutrality agreement” and as the only union option. There would be those that might argue that a neutrality agreement isn’t such a bad thing, and it wouldn’t be if such an agreement were actually neutral. Most reasonable people would understand the term “neutral” to mean having no personal preference/bias or not supporting or favoring either side in a war, dispute, or contest; but the agreement that the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. came in under, with the consent of Tenet management was far from neutral.

When I first learned of the neutrality agreement I asked for a copy and it wasn’t long before a copy appeared in my mail, and after reading the lengthy document it was clear that Tenet and the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. had entered into an agreement that benefited not the nurses but the union leadership of C.N.A./N.N.O.C. One could easily blame the leadership of C.N.A./N.N.O.C. for crafting such a one-sided contract, but the fault for agreeing to the overly restrictive terms lay firmly in the lap of Tenet management. As any good contract negotiator will tell you, its not uncommon for one party or the other to present a tough or one-sided agreement, they do this to see what kind of or how much push back they will get from the other party; and it’s assumed that the other party will present a counter offer – hence the term contract negotiation. But if Tenet offered any counter offer to the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. agreement then I can only conclude it was a half hearted one, because the contract heavily favored C.N.A./N.N.O.C., to the point of disadvantaging Tenet’s very own nurses themselves.

For example the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. representatives were given access to the employee list, including personal contact information, of all the RNs at the three hospitals (CyFair, Northwest, and Park Plaza). Keep in mind that prior to this all three hospitals were non-union shops, thus the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. were not yet recognized as a bargaining unit for any of the RNs at these hospitals; so these strangers were given free access to this personal information and RNs discovered this only after they started receiving calls, visits and mail from C.N.A./N.N.O.C. Tenet also sold the rights of the RNs to any non-approved C.N.A./N.N.O.C. messages or information, because they agreed to a clause that required C.N.A./N.N.O.C’s. approval of any flyer that the hospital management would post regarding the unionizing efforts with their hospitals (keep in mind C.N.A./N.N.O.C. were not yet a recognized bargaining unit at any of these hospitals). C.N.A./N.N.O.C. representatives were given meeting space and permission to have information booths in employee areas; but when a group of Tenet nurses (many of whom were already members of the state’s professional nurses association, the Texas Nurses’ Association) requested the same privilege they were denied by hospital administration. So instead the nurses were expected to, and did run their own information campaign on their own dime and time. These nurses organized a truth-a-thon to provide interested nurses with another side of the “union/non-union” story; C.N.A./N.N.O.C. were so fearful that these nurses had decided to provide an alternate voice that C.N.A./N.N.O.C. representatives took photographs of the “no to” C.N.A./N.N.O.C. nurses and those nurses that requested information at the truth-a-thon.   Which is why I’m always skeptical at unions that whine about the harsh tactics of management when they often engage in the very same or even worse tactics that they accuse management.

In the end with a very small margin CyFair nurses voted to accept the union but of course C.N.A./N.N.O.C. declared an outright victory and that a new day was dawning for the nurses of Texas, because soon C.N.A./N.N.O.C. would release all RNs in Texas from the shackles of “servitude” and “oppression”. But wait; there was still Northwest and Park Plaza.   What happened to the union vote at these two institutions? Well, just as C.N.A./N.N.O.C. came into Houston like thieves in the night on April 14th they formally withdrew their petition and they slunk out of Park Plaza and Northwest, once they realized that the RNs at Northwest and Park Plaza with help from CyFair nurses were not about to abdicate their professional voices without full disclosure. These nurses launched, again on their own time and dime, an information campaign and as luck would have it they got to observe how C.N.A./N.N.O.C. representatives acted during the CyFair union organization drive and for every pro-union button that was being worn, two no thanks C.N.A. buttons were being worn as well. The Park Plaza nurses mounted such excellent information campaign that C.N.A./N.N.O.C. representatives demanded additional time to campaign and of course their request was granted – but even the additional time couldn’t turn the tide for C.N.A./N.N.O.C. Ironically C.N.A./N.N.O.C. accused the two Tenet Hospitals with colluding with the NRTW Foundation as to why their organizing efforts failed. Let me get this straight Tenet gives C.N.A./N.N.O.C., complete access to employee personnel records, unfettered access to nurses while at work, in the units, break rooms and wherever else nurses gathered in the hospital and denied nurses who opposed the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. message even the opportunity to provide their side of the story, except when those nurses did all the work themselves on their own dime and outside hospital premises and C.N.A./N.N.O.C. whines, stomps their feet and cries “FOUL”? This is just one more reason that I oppose unions for nurses, because this is not the kind of behavior I want to see exhibited by the nurse professional.

Where is the Texas media to report the withdrawal? All the while C.N.A./N.N.O.C. was actively organizing the newspapers could barely contain themselves and happily reported on the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. progress; but now that C.N.A./N.N.O.C. has withdrawn there has been nary a peep.

Of course, I know why C.N.A./N.N.O.C. and their supporters in the media doesn’t want it known that the nurses of Northwest and Park Plaza rejected their overtures; because God forbid should nurses be lead to believe that they can speak for themselves since the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. campaign is based heavily on “nurses are so weak, disenfranchised and oppressed” that only a union can adequately represent them. So when nurses reject the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. either by voting them down as recently happened in Fresno, or decertify as in the San Diego area, or stand-up and don’t even let them get their foot in the door as in Houston then the mythos created by C.N.A./N.N.O.C. is damaged and thus makes their propaganda much less affective.