Archive for July, 2009

The AFL-CIO just released an announcement that heralds the following: “Catholic Bishops, Health Providers, Unions cooperate to support workers’ rights”. The headline and the subsequent list can easily leave the reader believing that employer, workers and union organizers have agreed to a set of very good and positive principals. However, you’d be wrong because according to the AFL-CIO blog post that details this accord “the new guidelines cover seven principals for employers when workers seek a union”, the operative word here is employers. In short, the guidelines only apply to employers, not to the employee in favor or opposed to unions, or the union organizers themselves. And though this is not quite as egregious of an agreement as the odious Tenet/C.N.A. (an affiliate of the AFL-CIO) neutrality agreement, which handed over the personal information of registered nurses (without the knowledge of those same RNs) at C.N.A.-targeted hospitals it’s still nonetheless a one-sided accord.

The seven principals for employers when workers seek a union:


Access to information;

Truthful communication;

Pressure-free environment;

Expeditious process;

Honoring employee decisions; and

Meaningful enforcement of these principals

How can I tell? because of the term employers in the sentence, and not phrases such as all parties, everyone, all concerned and so forth. So once again unions have found a way to stack the deck. What’s truly sad is that the guidelines suggested above are well meaning, but without them being applied to all, and I mean all parties (that would include employee both in opposition to and in favor of union representation and the union organizers) this then leaves the door open for union and their supporters to engage in bad behavior without fear of repercussions (this would also go for the employees who are in opposition to union representation).

Additionally several of the phrases are subjective rather than objective. For example, how are we defining truthful communication, pressure-free environment and meaningful enforcement? I ask this since one person’s pressure could be another person directly asked question. Truthful communication? What does that mean? For example in a recent flyer put out by the C.N.A., an AFL-CIO affiliate, numerous duplicate signatures, unidentified employee signatures, terminated employee signatures, and signatures of people in favor of decertification were found on a “petition” to encourage Cy-Fair nurses to vote against decertification. When a C.N.A. representative was asked why such a flyer was even being distributed the response was oh well it was a printing error; but to many individuals including myself this flyer was less than truthful, but apparently to the C.N.A. there was nothing “untruthful” about it.

So though the accord that seems to have been reached, I think it’s once step above an Election Procedures Agreement (EPA). If unions and employers were all about supporting the workers then these guidelines should’ve used more objective language and should’ve been written to include ALL parties. All too often unions accuse non-union nurses as being surrogates for management thus putting into question the motives of these nurses; and pro-nursing union nurses are often found exhibiting less then positive adult like behavior. The union gets the option of pointing the finger of blame to the first and ignoring the bad acts of the later; while employers do the same in reverse – meanwhile it’s the nurses themselves that suffer in the end. Or you have experiences such as the nurses in Houston and Philadelphia where hospital management was so cowed by the EPA that they decided to not respond to any questions that nurse had that remotely referenced the union, and barred any message by pro-union messages going so far as to give the union a glass covered bulletin board, but no such favor to the “No to the union” nurses. Is this fair? Does it fall in line with the above AFL-CIO guidelines?

You may wonder why I even decided to address the AFL-CIO accord with the Catholic Bishops et al; simple the link was sent to be by someone identifying himself or herself as:


Submitted on 2009/07/09 at 3:24am

I’d like to know your thoughts on this:

I found the query trapped in my spam folder since both the name and email appeared suspicious to my spamblocker. I did a quick whois search and found that it had been sent from the servers at the California Nurses Association (see copy of search here). I wonder what ulterior motive the C.N.A. had in sending me this link to their affiliated organization? Are they contemplating adopting a similar, somewhat more restrained approach to their well know aggressive organizing? Well who’s to know the real reason, but respond I have with my opinion.

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.

The nurse’s of Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia just got the news — they won in their election fight against the California Nurses Association (C.N.A.)! The vote count was 309 RNs against to 267 RNs in favor of unionization.

I wonder how the C.N.A. and their supporters will spin this election loss. No doubt they’ll issue a press release touting the narrow loss and I’m sure the press will parrot this statement. Just like when the C.N.A. won the vote at Cy-Fair in Houston by a margin of 8 (now that was a slim victory), but the C.N.A. touted the vote as though it was a resounding victory for nurses across Texas. So if we use their own reasoning then we can only conclude that if an 8-vote margin is a resounding win; then a 42-vote margin is one major whooping on behalf of the nurses in their rejection of the C.N.A. Maybe the Pennsylvania nurses might’ve been more receptive to the idea a nursing union if it had been a local nursing union that was courting their vote and not the carpet bagging C.N.A. and their well-known bullying tactics that was courting them?

To put things into perspective for folks, the nurses that weren’t keen on a nursing union had a very hard row to hoe. Like in Houston they found that their hospital and nursing management were in essence prohibited from offering them assistance thanks to a so-called neutrality agreement (for more one this agreement see “Like Thieves in the Night”) that had been signed between Tenet and the C.N.A. The agreement gave all the cards to the C.N.A. and their representatives to spread their message, but withheld equal support for the nurses that wanted to get their counter-message out. Things were so blatantly unfair that the NLRB actually intervened on behalf of the No to the C.N.A. nurses and granted these nurses a couple concessions: such as a meeting room that was somewhere in the “bowels” of the hospital so that only the most stalwart of nurses could find the meeting room and of course finally a table in the cafeteria. Throughout the process nurses, such as Nurse Hummel were stalked, photographed, and pilloried by the C.N.A. representatives. The C.N.A. pulled out all the stops even going so far as to paying for a pro-C.N.A. nurse from Cy-Fair hospital to come out and make the rounds through the hospital and producing a flyer depicting Hahnemann nurses attending a big pro-union rally in DC organized by the C.N.A. The only problem with the flyer was that the nurses pictured from Hahnemann Hospital never attended that event and had been plucked out of another photograph and pasted into this C.N.A. propaganda material. Nurse Hummel even made sure to invite the C.N.A. to attend a debate so that interested nurses could have an open discussion, but the C.N.A. was a no-show, which seems to be par for the course when it comes to dealing with the C.N.A.

I think that the C.N.A. finally met their match when RNs from several other states came out to offer their support, expertise and knowledge with those who simply wanted to be able to have their side of the story heard. I know that several nurses came out on their own dime and time; and as one of those nurses, I found the time I spent at Hahnemann enlightening and enjoyable. I was both pleased and honored to have met with not only Nurse Hummel (after so many telephone conversations) and the countless other RNs that came to our table or met us in the hallways and meeting rooms to share their story and to give me an opportunity to answer their questions.

So hats off to all the nurses (both anti & pro nursing union) of Hahnemann who turned out to vote (from what I’ve been told about 592 eligible nurses voted) that means nearly 60% of the eligible nurses voted in this election. I can only hope that the media fairly reports the outcome of the election and assuming that they even chose to report the vote outcome. For more information I invite you to visit the Hahnemann nurses website at: