Friday, September 22, 2017

How 1,000 Nurses in Northern Michigan Went Union

 321 6
One thousand nurses at Munson Medical Center, one of the largest employers in Northern Michigan, voted to join the Michigan Nurses Association last month. Photo: RNs of the Munson Organizing Committee
Nurses in rural northern Michigan made history August 9-10 when we won labor’s biggest organizing victory since “right to work” took effect in the state in 2013. By a vote of 489–439, more than 1,000 RNs at Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center, the area’s largest employer, will be represented by the Michigan Nurses Association.
Munson nurses tried to organize years earlier, unsuccessfully. “I was involved in the effort to organize 15 years ago,” said critical care pool RN Dagmar Cunningham. “Since then benefits have decreased and the workload due to sicker patients has increased. Something had to change.”
This time around, we succeeded. How did we do it?


It started with one phone call. After years of frustration with mandatory overtime, cuts to benefits and incentives for professional development, poor communication among nurses, managers, and the administration, and problems with nurse recruitment and retention, RNs began asking ourselves whether the highest quality of care was being delivered to our patients at all times.
Wanting to advocate for both my patients and my profession, I made the first call to MNA’s organizing department, in September 2016.
“I want to be paid fairly, but forming a union is about more than money,” said orthopedic RN Mikki Popp. “I want what’s best for my patients. On my unit, we are continually pulled around the hospital as the ‘alternate pool’ but we are not trained or compensated as such.” (Pool nurses can be moved around to fill needs in many departments but should receive specialized training for each department they serve.)
Only seven nurses from critical care floors and the nursing pool attended our ng. But from the onset, we used “best practices” for organizing: build relationships; keep a 1:10 ratio of OC members to nurses; build a committee with new and experienced nurses from every shift and unit; organize around the concerns of the people you are talking to.
General meetings were held monthly. More than 100 nurses attended our fourth in January 2017. To maximize turnout, we held two meetings per night, before and after shift change. We also launched day-long drop-in sessions at a coffee shop, so that nurses who had yet to get involved could ask questions of active OC members.


We supplemented and supported face-to-face conversations with modern rapid-response tools. We created team-based chats within a texting application (GroupMe) chosen for its ability to text across platforms, add or drop members, and integrate with a cloud drive (Dropbox).
This allowed us to share documents and photos, as well as plan meetings and collective actions, all in real time from our smartphones.
For example, when we heard that managers were asking employees in captive-audience meetings about their union activity, we were ready.
A delegation of about 20 nurses organized via GroupMe. With a few hours’ notice, we dropped in on a “nursing open house” with the chief nursing officer (CNO). We asked management to sign on to our statement condemning illegal questioning of nurses about their union views.
Instead, the CNO sent an email to all nurses expressing her concern about the organizing campaign. Nurses who weren’t already aware of our effort suddenly were.



A step-by-step guide to building power on the job. Buy Now. »
We quickly printed the CNO’s email, marked it up by hand, and used group text messaging to redistribute photos of it with our editorial comments, pointing out common anti-union techniques. Going around the hospital with a traditional paper flyer might have slowed us down.


But texting did not take the place of conversation. Each day at lunch we set up a table near the cafeteria entrance for more discussion face to face. (During the election, the table was a rallying point for nurses to come to before or after they voted.)
By this time management, counselled by a prominent anti-union firm out of Chicago, was sending out weekly emails against our drive. They set up a page on the hospital intranet filled with biased and misleading “facts.” Several managers were telling nurses they would lose flexibility, the union is a third party, and all the usual arguments.
Beginning in April, nurses were made to attend an information session on the collective bargaining process, run by an anti-union consultant. Management required nurses to leave our patients to attend these hour-long meetings off the floors.
On April 29, we began circulating union authorization cards. A few weeks later we held our first “blitz,” visiting nurses at home to talk about our union. We held a second blitz in June.
“Before the house call, I was passive in my support for a union. I really didn’t think it was going anywhere,” said Eleanor, a mental health nurse. “But hearing from Shannon Gillespie, a fellow nurse who was passionate enough to knock on my door, inspired me to sign my authorization card.”


Eleanor is a great example of how our union grew.
According to Eleanor, “Shortly after the house visit, pool RN Spencer Carey transferred in and asked me for training specific to our department. His enthusiasm for our union convinced me that this was actually going to happen.
“Mental health is a locked unit, so I made an effort to be ‘union visible’ in an area where other strong supporters might not have access. Morale was low. Maybe because we are isolated from the rest of the hospital, mental health nurses were more scared about unionizing.
“I wore an MNA badge holder, attended union meetings, and tried to keep my co-workers informed. Several nurses signed cards as a result of our conversations. I also became a regular staffing the cafeteria table.”
We won our union because nurses like Eleanor stepped up. But that victory is just the beginning.
Post-election, the cafeteria table is still a hub to distribute information and gather nurses’ priorities, as we develop a bargaining survey and democratically prepare to bargain our first contract.
James Walker, BSN, RN, CCRN, is a cardiothoracic critical care nurse at Munson Medical Center.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Labor Day


Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.
Promoted by 
Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.
As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicagopolicemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.
The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.
On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.
Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday.Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

XPO Workers Demand Fairness, Respect at XPO Logistics’ Terminals Nationwide


Employees ‘March on the Boss’ to Demand Fair Bargaining
(WASHINGTON) – Workers at multiple locations across the nation today “marched on their bosses,” delivering a clear message to management and demands that XPO Logistics, Inc. bargain their contracts in good faith without delays. They also want the company to respect the rights of its workers to organize and form a union without intimidation or harassment.
“As Americans get ready to celebrate Labor Day, the XPO workers’ actions today remind us that the long, hard struggle for workers’ rights is far from over,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “XPO continues to be the poster child of corporate greed, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on union busters while outsourcing and eliminating jobs and cutting workers’ benefits. At the same time, CEO Bradley Jacobs continues to enrich himself with a huge stock bonus and a 481 percent wage increase while workers continue to be squeezed.”.........