Union Workers are OK by Me

Nursing students are very hard workers and should be very excited about their future careers. The job opportunities are vast and I believe a large group of retirees are on the horizon, which only makes the outlook brighter for current nursing students and the newly graduated. A nurse’s wage is respectable and in most situations nurses work in an environment that provides quality benefits.

If you become a nurse have you thought about being a union nurse? Unions have many benefits including high quality healthcare, competitive wages, and the solidarity of your fellow union members. Unions are a great option for employees, union workers range from nurses to carpenters to grocers. Along with the benefits of the union there can also be conflict between the employer and the union. The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) sits down with the employers every three years to discuss the parameters of a new contract.

Their most recent contract is coming to an end; it was a 2013 – 2016 contract. All MNA nurses received new contracts with their employers except the nurses that work for Allina Hospitals. MNA has 20,000 Registered Nurses and other healthcare professionals in a three state area.  Negotiations for a new contract started in early 2016, however in recent months conversations with Allina have come to a standstill. If an agreement can not be reached conversations of a strike are initiated by MNA.

Why would MNA nurses for Allina strike? There are several reasons including staffing ratios, workplace violence, and wages. The major factor for this particular contract involves healthcare. Allina believes the current MNA members have a “Cadillac” insurance program. Allina believes their healthcare employees have too good of insurance. There have been several offers between both parties of what a new contract should look like. Allina refuses to maintain the current healthcare plan for all of their current union members and all future employees that would become MNA members. The other issues MNA wants addressed Allina refuses to talk about in negotiations. For example, being understaffed, which I think most people can relate to. MNA refuses Allina’s offers and it has become a standstill.

 

The MNA members from Allina are going on strike on June 19th 2016. This is a 7 day strike, that involves Allina Hospital Systems which includes five locations in the Twin Cities Metro Area. It includes Abbot Northwestern in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St Paul, Mercy and United Hospitals located in the northern suburbs, and Phillips Eye clinic in Minneapolis.

The strike operates as a 7 day walkout from June 19th to June 26th. During this time nurses will picket near the facilities they are employed at. Picket lines attract big groups of supporters and the media is there to document much of it. It can be a great demonstration for the power of people.  The picket line also acts as a wall that “scab” nurses must cross before they attempt to full-fill the skilled positions in the hospital.

During these situations 3rd party companies get involved and send out many notices to registered nurses, looking for people to work. The nurses that are hired are considered “scabs”. However one refers to these nurses, they are usually compensated handsomely. Allina may pay for travel costs, lodging, and inflated wages during the strike period. All of the costs add up and will cost the company millions of dollars within a 7 day period.

Union employee in your lifetime or non-union employee depends on your personal preference. I am not a union employee but I once was. I support anybody standing up for their rights as a worker. After all the unions did help mold our current working climate we relish in the 21st century. All of these employees are very brave in my eyes. They don’t know when the strike will end. They don’t know what their jobs will be in the end, but they are standing up for what they believe to be right. They have solidarity and that can be very powerful.

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