Archive for July, 2008

Did Tenet “sell” its nurses out?

For the past year or so the National Nurses Organizing Committee (N.N.O.C.), a spin-off of the California Nurses Association (C.N.A.) has been aggressively trying to recruit and add nurses from across the country to their union. At present N.N.O.C. has Texas-area nurses in their sights and they are currently in Houston (under a neutrality agreement) trying to recruit nurses from three Tenet-owned, Houston-area hospitals; the three hospitals are: Cy-Fair, Houston-Northwest, and Park-Plaza.



When I learned of the N.N.O.C. activities in these hospitals I reached out to some of my contacts in Houston as well as at least one of the nurses who had been identified as leading a nurse-driven opposition to the unionization attempt. Several conversations and emails later my daughters and I found ourselves taking a short trip to Houston and meeting with the various nurses from all three hospitals. Even though I had received a great deal of background information from these nurses prior to arriving in Houston the sheer scope of the nurses’ abandonment and betrayal by their employer only became clear after I read the Tenet/C.N.A.-N.N.O.C. neutrality agreement and listened to the personal stories of the RNs that I met during my stay.



I thought how odd that a neutrality agreement would be signed even before the union presented any authorization cards showing that there was an interest from the nurses to call for a vote. Neutrality agreements are often controversial, but in short a well-written one (i.e. one that favors the union at the expense of employer rights) can make unionizing efforts much easier for the union and its representative. The Tenet/C.N.A.-N.N.O.C. agreement is heavily weighted in favor of the union, even going so far as requiring that the hospital have any of its opposition information which was to be neutral-language based preapproved by the C.N.A./N.N.O.C before it could be distributed; and the part that I thought even more interesting was the part where the hospital would provide the union with the names of “eligible” RNs personal contact information. The nurses didn’t even know their private, confidential contact information had been provided to this third party until nurses began receiving calls at home from union representatives; it was only after numerous complaints from nurses that the nurses were given an opportunity to opt-out but of course by then the union already had the complete list. One nurse shared that she discovered her contact information had been released to the union, without her knowledge, when union representatives contacted her at home and used her given name not the “nickname” that she normally goes by even at work.

The nurses that strongly opposed the union quickly formed two ad-hoc groups, UB-144 and Informed RN ( to reach out and provide an alternative source of information then the one being provided by C.N.A./N.N.O.C.   Though one cannot necessarily blame the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. for drafting a contract that favors them and their cause so heavily, I wonder why the administration at Tenet was so willing to pretty much just roll over and take it. The first rule of contract negotiation is to make the tough demands up front and then negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. But there is little give and take in this agreement since it binds Tenet in such a way they have pretty much left the nurses that want non-union information out in the cold with no support from any Tenet official. However, these nurses showing a great deal of initiative have reached out and garnered answers and support from other nurses in Texas and across this nation – because of the little known fact that nursing unions and most of the main-stream media fail to clarify is that nursing unions do not represent the voice of nurses, since most nurses (either 89% or 80% depending on which statistic you pick) choose to speak with their own voice – not a union voice.



However, what concerns this nurse and citizen most is what, in my opinion, is a very undemocratic and almost draconian tact that the C.N.A./N.N.O.C has demanded of the three Tenet hospitals. For example C.N.A./N.N.O.C. can and does get meeting space at all three of these hospital – this is fair; but when Tenet-nurses wanted to get their “we are professionals and don’t need a union to represent us” message out the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. demanded that the hospital refuse a room to these nurses. Even though these nurses were doing everything on their own time and dime and the only thing they asked for was the same courtesy that C.N.A./N.N.O.C. had demanded – a room to meet in. The C.N.A./N.N.O.C. demanded and got a confidential employee list with the private home contact information of all the eligible RNs; when the nurses of Informed RN asked for the same courtesy they were denied access to the list. So next time when the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. (or any union for that matter) pontificates about democracy and rages against special interest groups – remember the above example because if C.N.A./N.N.O.C. was all about informing and empowering nurses then they wouldn’t fear a grass-action group such as Informed RN. But of course the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. does fear such groups because groups such as Informed RN are all about empowering RNs to be informed and to take action on what they know – all without having to pay dues to the union machine. To me how C.N.A./N.N.O.C. has dealt with the Houston RNs, coupled with the language that they crafted for a California Assembly Bill 1201 (thankfully killed in committee) shows what their union leadership really think of nurses.



Meanwhile, I hear that these buttons (see below) are so popular that Informed RN can hardly make enough to meet with the demands. Way to go Informed RN!


A short while ago I was invited by some nurses from Houston, Texas to pay them a visit. Since my daughters and I had been discussing taking a short vacation for some time the invitation provided us with an opportunity to take a road trip to Texas. I let the nurses in Houston know that I’d be happy to pay them a visit and chat with them about their experiences with the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. Which is why after just a few days in Houston, my daughters and I found us in Austin having lunch at the Sheraton Hotel and under the watchful eye of C.N.A./N.N.O.C. officials. We had personal business to attend to in Austin, and since the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. has planned a strategy session with HCA nurses to discuss “unionizing” I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to observe them in action, so to speak.

As I walked down the hallway between the conference rooms and the restaurant where my daughters waited for me, a C.NA. representative recognized me and quickly left the meeting room so he could follow me. And follow me he did, stopping short of the restaurant entrance where he then stood for 10 – 15 minutes, in plain sight, observing us as we ordered our meal and while he busily spoke to someone on his cell or text messaged. A little while later he motioned for someone to join him and appear to direct him to continue the vigil while he went back upstairs. After finishing our lunch we made plans to complete our errand and found it most amusing to see that we were still being “watched”; oh to have such power.

Which brings me to my point of hubris. Why the officials of the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. would think that I would plan to disrupt their activities or meetings is interesting – but of course they would think this is how people behave since they think nothing of disrupting a meeting, stalking or harassing those they perceive as “threats” or even raiding other unions – so of course they would believe this behavior to be the norm and thus everyone else would exhibit the same deplorable behavior. Which is why they made a point of observing and stalking my daughters and I while we were having our lunch and then made sure we were “observed” during our entire stay at the hotel. If they had only come up and introduced themselves perhaps they would have learned my intent and thus not wasted their time on looking the fool.

Nonetheless when I shared this experience with my fellow nurses from Texas and California everyone had a good laugh at the actions of the C.N.A. and commented on how this made for a memorable experience for this Texas road-trip. Of course one would think that the C.N.A./N.N.O.C. exercise in hubris would end there, but have no fear the day after my return I received an email from an N.N.O.C. nurse from Tennessee. Nurse Chapman chose to send me an email regarding a very popular article I wrote, “To Unionize or Not to Unionize, that is the Question?” Apparently he was under the impression that he was my editor or significant other because he attempted to “deconstruct” my article throwing around such words as nurses need strong union representation (just see what such strong unionization has wrought the nurses of Great Britain, Australia and Canada), research and studies have shown. . . without providing a single citation for his conclusions, and my favorite “I request that you change the title of your article. . ”. Of course my response to him was NO, I would not change the title of my article, as I like it very much the way it is now. I also reminded him that this article, as all my articles and blog postings reflect my opinion and experience and thus not subject to his approval. Of course he chose to ignore the underpinnings of all my articles which that my readers should always do their due diligence, which by the tone and context of his letter I think he preferred that nurses just remain as sheep and that they should follow his piped piper. “N.N.O.C.”.

Oh the hubris of the C.N.A. and their operatives to think that they can intimidate nurses so easily, and me in particular.