(Editor’s Note: This edition of Seachange Bulletin reviews why most organized
nurses in Massachusetts seek to establish a strong, independent, well-funded
Massachusetts Nurses Association at this time, as well as such background
material as an article published in the August 2000 issue of Labor Notes and
the published rationale for the specific bylaw amendments to be debated and
voted upon on March 24th in Worcester. There is also an article on the
concerted action of our colleagues ‘Down Under,’ represented by the Victoria
Branch of the Australian Nursing Federation, in fighting for enforcement of
safe staffing regulations. -- Sandy Eaton, RN, Quincy, Massachusetts)
What An "ANA-Free" MNA Can Accomplish Once We Disaffiliate
A vote to disaffiliate from ANA will allow MNA to pursue a progressive,
proactive, pro nursing, pro patient agenda that will build on the successes
our organization has already enjoyed, while launching us into entirely new
and exciting directions.
Here are just some of the initiatives that might be pursued by an independent
* Reaffirm and expand our commitment to the Safe Care Campaign.
* Pass legislation that protects nurses in their work environment and
enhances their role as patient advocates including staffing levels/criteria,
health and safety and protection from workplace violence.
* Increase funding for CE programs to promote clinical expertise and
* Develop a leadership institute that encompasses education providing labor
knowledge, public speaking, political action, media and community activism.
* Establish a research center to promote research, track industry changes
and coordinate patient outcomes.
* Work with other progressive, like-minded organizations, such as the
California Nurses Association, to establish a national program with a
progressive agenda that galvanizes front-line nurses nationally and
* Increase our organizing of all RNs and Health Care professionals who are
eligible and desire to unionize.
* Develop and strengthen the relationships with the bargaining units and
develop the relationships and strategies between bargaining units through
education, communication and support of our unionized membership.
If we fail to disaffiliate, none of this is possible!
Services will need to be cut in order to continue to pay ANA $100,000 per
month ($1.2 Million per year) and your dues will be increased by the ANA.
It's Time To Say Yes To A Bright And Powerful Future
It's Time To Vote Yes For Disaffiliation On March 24th!
(Editor's Note: The following article was published in the print version of
Labor Notes' August 2000 issue. Some concepts were editorially telescoped for
space considerations. All Massachusetts RNs will be welcome in the new
Massachusetts Nurses Association.)
Massachusetts Nurses Consider Leaving American Nurses Association
by Sandy Eaton
By the end of last year's American Nurses Association House of Delegates
meeting, some Massachusetts delegates had reached the conclusion that efforts
to transform that organization were futile.
The ANA includes nurses who are represented for collective bargaining by
their state nurses association, and many who are not. It has traditionally
tried to be all things to all nurses - including those who are in management
or otherwise allied with corporate health care. The association has at best
pursued a moderate course. That was no longer tolerable to these delegates
from the Massachusetts Nurses Association, who wanted serious advocacy for
patients and bedside nurses. They decided a new beginning would be necessary.
This ferment grew, so that this fall MNA members will decide whether to
divorce themselves from the ANA.
The question will be decided at the MNA annual convention in November, at
which any member in good standing is entitled to speak and vote. A two-thirds
majority is required to amend the bylaws. A vigorous campaign has begun, with
committees pushing each side of the issue.
The precedent for this move is the California Nurses Association, which left
the ANA in 1995, and has successfully focused its resources on organizing and
political advocacy for patients and nurses. The Maine State Nurses
Association will also be considering an independence vote this fall.
Democratize the ANA?
Efforts to democratize ANA in the wake of CNA's departure centered on two
initiatives: an annual staff nurse summit to explore ways to empower working
nurses within their state nurses associations (SNAs) and within ANA, and the
formation of an SNA Labor Coalition.
Various large labor constituents of ANA took turns, from 1996 on, hosting the
annual summit. Minnesota, Massachusetts, Ohio, New York and Illinois each
took a turn organizing speakers and workshops.
In 1997, the nine largest state nurses associations - large because they
successfully pursue collective bargaining programs, which most SNAs are
unable or unwilling to do - formed a coalition to push for a national labor
agenda. The culmination of efforts by this labor coalition was the proposal
to create a national nurses' union within the ANA, which would possibly
consider affiliation to the AFL-CIO.
The resultant United American Nurses (UAN) was approved overwhelmingly by the
1999 ANA House of Delegates. But Massachusetts and Maine objected because the
UAN would not be democratically run by staff nurses. The ANA's executive
director would be the chief executive of the new UAN, hired and fired by the
management-dominated ANA Board of Directors, which in turn is elected by the
management-dominated House of Delegates.
A Massachusetts amendment to democratize the UAN and guarantee an independent
funding stream was resoundingly defeated. In October, the Massachusetts Labor
Program members unanimously voted not to join the UAN. Then in March, the
leaders of this union component of the MNA, joined by two other elected
leadership bodies, put forth proposals to leave ANA altogether.
Coincident to the developing Massachusetts campaign to leave ANA, 600 newly
organized nurses in Worcester moved to the fore by striking Tenet Healthcare
Corporation because of its insistence on the unsafe practice of mandatory
overtime. By their courage and purity of purpose, aided by nurses everywhere
and a broad array of labor and community backing, they in May beat the second
largest for-profit hospital chain in the world.
Divisions, and New Unity
The divisions within ANA were deepened at this year's House of Delegates in
June. By this time many UAN members acknowledged that Massachusetts was right
on the democracy question, but urged us to stay and continue the fight. We
pointed out that reform was impossible, as proven by further efforts on the
floor of the House.
At the convention, Tipper Gore received a standing ovation and then told
delegates that incremental steps toward universal health care were needed.
(Massachusetts had led a decade-long effort, successful in 1999, to get the
House of Delegates on record in support of single-payer universal health
care.) Tenet Healthcare was allowed to have an information booth at the
convention, until MNA delegates' leafletting got it removed.
Many of us wore T-shirts bearing the words across the back, "Ask me! I'm from
Massachusetts." This simple act provoked hundreds of heart-felt discussions
on why many in Massachusetts were actively campaigning to leave ANA.
In the meantime, nurses are organizing in many parts of the country. Strikes
and threats of strikes are on the rise. Nurses are fed up at unbearable
working conditions and threats to patient and nurse safety.
A new beginning, at least for most organized nurses in Massachusetts, is on
the horizon. The tactical support between nurses' organizations that
intensified during the strike in Worcester should lead to closer
relationships. CNA and the new independent nurses union, the 6,000-member
Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (formerly
affiliated with the Pennsylvania State Education Association) have formed an
alliance that is aimed at building a national, independent nurses movement.
The Cabinet for Labor Relations of MNA - the executive board of the
association's union section - recently passed a resolution calling for
"exploration of and discussions about future relationships and alliances with
other nurses' groups and associations."
It would be premature to declare the imminent creation of a new national
nurses' federation, but the building blocks of a truly revolutionary
organization are emerging - an organization united not just around the least
common denominator of bread-and-butter issues, but also around the vision and
the program to take on and defeat the industry, inspired by our vanguard in
Rationale for Bylaw Amendment
The amendment itself was proposed in March (2000) by the Cabinet for Labor
Relations and the Congress on Health and Safety. It consists of two parts:
the deletion of Article I, Section 5, which defines the MNA's status as a
constituent member of the ANA, and all other explicit references to ANA. The
rationale offered for this change runs as follows:
"To liberate the MNA during this time of assault on nursing and patient care,
freeing our resources to focus on actions and activities that unify nurses
around these core values:
* Protect and promote the profession of nursing.
* Enhance the knowledge and promote the education of nurses fostering
clinical expertise and activism on behalf of their patients and practice.
* Accept and embrace the nurse's role as patient advocate.
* Promote the access to quality healthcare for all.
* Protect the health and safety of nurses in all work settings.
* Enhance and promote the economic, health and general welfare of nurses.
* Provide and respect workplace democracy for all eligible nurses who desire
to exercise this right.
* Work toward solidarity with any and all nurses who share these core values
for the survival of nursing."
The other language proposal would amend Article II, Section 5, Paragraph b to
read: "The dues previously paid to the ANA shall be automatically retained as
MNA annual dues." The rationale furnished for this is:
"Current MNA dues include dues paid as a 'per cap' assessment that the MNA
must pay as a condition of membership in the ANA federation. The 'dues
previously paid' refers to this per cap assessment of $85 per full-time
member. By retaining this assessment at the state level the MNA, without
altering its current dues level, can provide greater resources to the benefit
of its membership in addressing their issues as directed on the state and
Hospitals to explain nurse patient ratios
20:35 (AEDT) VICTORIAN country hospitals will be forced to provide
explanations if they are unable to meet legally-stipulated nurse-patient
ratios, the nurses union said today.
A decision by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) today
reaffirmed a decision last year which defined nurse-patient ratios for
hospitals depending on their size and location.
Commissioner Wayne Blair today repeated the ratios after the Australian
Nursing Federation (ANF) alleged up to 20 rural and regional hospitals were
failing to meet their quotas.
"At a hearing this morning Commissioner Wayne Blair recognised some interim
problem areas with the implementation of ratios, but importantly he has
reaffirmed his August 31 decision," ANF secretary Belinda Morieson said in a
She said Commissioner Blair had also initiated a working party which would
meet over the next three months to discuss the staffing problems in accident
and emergency departments.
Meanwhile, she said, country hospitals which were unable to meet their ratios
would have to notify the commission and explain why.
"Mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios are crucial to the improvement of
the public health care system across Victoria," Ms Morieson said.
"This is the only effective mechanism available that will allow nurses to
control workloads and thus provide the quality patient care that the
Victorian community deserves."
But the Victorian Hospitals Industry Association, which represents employers,
said the AIRC had recognised there were not enough nurses available to fill
all the quotas. VHIA chief executive Alec Djoneff said Commissioner Blair had
confirmed the number of nurses to be brought into the system at 1,300.
Since the original AIRC decision in August, 600 additional nurses had been
hired. The parties would now negotiate where the remaining 700 would be
Mr Djoneff said the AIRC had ordered the ANF to put a halt to bed closures
during the three months that the working party meets.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister John Thwaites tonight said the minister was
pleased the commission had confirmed the figure of 1,300 new nurses.
She said the commission's ruling on the nurse-patient ratios provided
"greater certainty" for nurse numbers across the hospital system.
Sandy's Links <