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Imagine finding flyers posted all over a hospital sounding the “alert that a professional union buster was on site”, and that flyer used to identify a nearly 70 year old great grandmother who has to use an electric scooter to get around. What power this person must have to send the California Nurses Association (C.N.A.) in paroxysm’s of fear and panic and to engage in their usually tactics of lies and misinformation. I was met with just such exhibitions fear-mongering and hysteria by C.N.A. recruiters, representatives and supporters when I made a recent visit at the invitation of a fellow nurse from Cy-Fair Hospital in Houston.

Their flyer identified me as a professional union buster, which I guess is a recognition of how much they fear my presence; but truth be told I’m not a professional union buster, and in particular I’m not a nursing union buster. The C.N.A. and many other pro-union people love to use the word union-buster since it tends to invoke images of a Simon LeGreed character replete with requisite black hat and clock and evil laugh.

I have nothing against unions for the blue-collar worker, but I’m far from convinced that professionals such as registered nurses need unions to represent them.   So when nurses contact me for my opinion and advise about how to speak for themselves I am always happy to help my fellow RN in advocating for our profession and for themselves. I’m happy to help in the effort of showing nurses they can and do have a strong voice as both an individuals and as a group without paying a nursing union dues of upwards to $80.00 a month for the favor.

In the case of two recent nursing union attempts, one nursing staffs attempt to stay free from the C.N.A. and one nursing staff attempt to decertify from the C.N.A. As fate would have it, I was in a position where I could help both in spirit and in person so I did. At the first hospital my fellow nurse and I found C.N.A. representatives playing shenanigans with hospital elevators so that the floor where a “No to the C.N.A.” nurse had been given a meeting room was locked out. This malfunction only affected the one floor that we had to reach on both days, what a coincidence. You may wonder why I think C.N.A. representatives capable of such underhanded techniques. Simple, I still haven’t forgotten a C.N.A. strike in the San Fernando Valley where pro-C.N.A. nurse locked out much need medical equipment, hiding/destroying manuals, etc., so that the relief nurses were hard pressed to provided nursing care to patients many of whom were in intensive care; and the C.N.A. strike was suppose to be all about their concern for patient safety — go figure! And at the second hospital I got treated to the experience of being stalked by not one, not two, but upwards to three C.NA. representatives at a time. The situation became of such concern that hospital HR and security had to become involved; but I guess I should feel honored that the C.N.A. felt the need to have so many people watching my every move.

Whether or not nurses chose a union to represent them or not should be up to the nurses themselves but this seems to rarely be the case these days. As in the case of the Tenet Healthcare/C.N.A. neutrality agreement Houston nurses that had opposing views to the C.N.A. material, propaganda or message had no one to turn to; at least that’s what the C.N.A. representatives thought, except they overlooked a grassroots network of informed RNs that were available for these nurses to reach out to; which they did and we responded. One would think that the C.N.A. representatives would be excited to learn that nurses were empowering one another, oh that’s right it only counts if the nursing unions are doing the empowering.   So sorry, we didn’t get that memo. One would also think that the C.N.A. would invite and encourage an open and lively discussion about the benefits of a nursing union, but they couldn’t be bothered to even accept the invitation extended by one group of nurses to present their viewpoint in an open debate. Instead they skulked about passing out flyers full of misstatements and lies since it so much easier to insult the intelligence of nurses rather than respect them.

In the case of the flyer (CYFair_NNOC_Alert1) they suggested that the nurses ask me a set of questions, and I responded with an open letter (OpenLetter1). One pro-C.N.A. nurse chose to mark up my open letter with graffiti instead of addressing me nurse to nurse. But then again it’s become common practice for pro-nursing union nurses to engage in such childish behavior. It’s a sad day when our honorable profession is marred by such immature behavior. However, I see these as indicators of how much the organizational structure of the C.N.A. fears nurses who chose to take back or carry on with their own voice. In the past several years their membership has been declining (their last official report in 2008 has their membership at just over 72,000 almost a full 8,000 or 13,000 drop depending on which C.N.A. official report you read). I think it’s this drop that has them scrambling for new members in the other 49 states.

But in some parts of our country nurses don’t want anything to do with them, and even when Tenet handed the C.N.A. the proverbial keys to the kingdom providing C.N.A. organizers unfettered and unprecedented access to RNs on the floor, scheduling information and even home addresses and telephone numbers; the C.N.A. has found resistance to their siren song. They couldn’t even gather enough cards at Park Plaza and Northwest Hospitals in Houston to even call an election and they slunk out of Houston so quietly that few even knew they had abandoned their organizational efforts. They accused one, that’s right ONE, nurse of trying to take away the union at Cy-Fair Hospital. What power this one nurse must have, I guess the well over 30% of eligible nurses that signed decertification cards meant nothing, it was all that one nurse’s fault. And this morning we learned that Hahnemann Hospital (another victim of the nefarious Tenet/C.N.A. neutrality agreement) had rejected the union. The C.N.A. had such access to the RNs at Hahnemann that nurses that opposed the C.N.A. had to get the NLRB to intervene just so they could get a meeting room in the bowels of the hospital and finally a table in the cafeteria (shortly before election day) and the union spokespeople whined that this was unfair.

So if our network of nurses, and me, in particular can help our fellow nurses when confronted with such behavior and that makes us professional nursing union busters in the eyes of the union then I guess that’s a cross we’ll just have to bear. I see it as the desperate actions of an organization that knows that people have begun to look behind the curtain that is the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee and they don’t like what they see. The more they howl about RNs empowering each other the more I know that I’m their bête noire and that’s a role I think I shall relish.