The MNA is making promises about what they can do to help you. Before you agree to let them speak for you rather than continuing to work directly with your colleagues, ask yourself whether inserting the MNA into your relationship with South Shore Hospital and our patients may be a positive or a negative change.
SOME TRUTHS ABOUT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
The Massachusetts Nurses Association wants you to believe that if you allow it to represent you, through collective bargaining you will only get more than you have today at SSH, and not less or the same as you now have. The MNA makes a lot of promises to nurses that can create misconceptions about the collective bargaining process. Here are the real facts about collective bargaining.
- Nothing is Automatic. The MNA cannot guarantee any improvements in wages, hours or other terms and conditions of employment. If SSH nurses choose MNA representation, SSH would be required to “bargain in good faith” with the MNA, and we would. But bargaining in good faith does not mean doing whatever the MNA wants. SSH would have the right to say “No” to any MNA proposal the Hospital believed isn’t in its best interest or the best interests of our patients and all of our employees. SSH also would have the right to make its own proposals and bargain hard about them.
- There Is No Such Thing As “Standard” MNA Benefits Or “Standard” MNA Work Rules. The MNA wants you to think that their contracts with other hospitals are the “standard package” given to all MNA members. This is not true. The truth is, whatever the MNA has negotiated in some other contract, or whatever happened in negotiations at some other hospital, would not be the least bit binding here. Each contract is individually negotiated, item by item, and stands on its own.
- You Could Lose As Easily As You Could Gain In Contract Negotiations. The MNA wants you to believe that you “can’t lose” with an MNA contract and your current wages and benefits can only go up. This is not true. It is possible for employees to end up with less as a result of negotiations. No one knows what would happen in negotiations. The MNA has been negotiating at UMass Memorial Medical Center for over a year and management continues to propose cuts to the nurses’ pension, health insurance and time-off benefits. The risks of collective bargaining fall on employees, not the union.
- Negotiations Can Take A Long Time. It is impossible to predict how long negotiations may take, especially when a first-time contract is involved and literally every item must be negotiated. It often takes many months, and sometimes even years. The parties must bargain in good faith, but there is no requirement that an agreement ever be reached. The MNA has been bargaining with Holy Family Hospital for a first contract for more than a year – since December 2011 – and they still do not have a contract. The nurses at Quincy Medical Center have been without a contract since January 2011.
- Everything Is On The Table. With negotiations, all your wages, benefits and working conditions - including the things you like most about working at South Shore Hospital - would be subject to negotiations. You could end up with more, the same, or less. Both sides – not just the union – make proposals. What the outcome of negotiations may be is anyone's guess. No one - including the MNA - can predict the outcome.
Can the MNA help us attract patients?
Patient volume is essential to our hospital and home care division and allows us to achieve our mission of providing quality care to the communities of the South Shore. The MNA has publicly criticized the quality of care that we provide at South Shore Hospital, saying, “The fact that South Shore Hospital was Magnet designated last year is sufficient to illustrate the meaninglessness of the label. South Shore is host to very serious problems of understaffing, long waits, dangerous conditions for patients, nurse turnover and dissatisfaction.” Statements like that can harm our reputation and drive patients away from us and mislead the public into believing that we don't provide quality care.
Can the MNA help us provide quality care?
We are proud of our nurses and the care they provide. The MNA opposes the concept of the Magnet Recognition Program. How would our nurses, patients, or the hospital benefit from having the MNA represent the nurses who have worked so hard to develop the nursing practice needed for this prestigious honor? The MNA also has opposed clinical ladder programs at other hospitals. Ask yourself if you want to be represented by an organization that opposes a program designed to improve clinical performance and job satisfaction.
Can representation by a California-based nurses union help you?
The MNA makes a big deal out of being part of National Nurses United (NNU). What does this mean for you? The MNA says it has 23,000 members. The NNU says it has close to 185,000 members, and more than 86,000 of them are represented by the California Nurses Association (CNA). How much of a voice does the MNA really have in the NNU when the CNA represents almost half of the NNU's membership and selects half of the NNU's Executive Council?
Would the risks of collective bargaining be a good thing for you?
The MNA says there is power in collective bargaining. What do they mean by this? At hospitals where the MNA represents nurses, the law requires the hospital to bargain in good faith with the MNA about the terms and conditions of employment of the nurses the MNA represents. The law does not require the hospital to agree to the MNA's demands. In fact, the law says that it "does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or require the making of a concession."
Recent picketing by the MNA shows that hospitals often refuse to agree to the MNA's demands:
Ask yourself whether you, South Shore Hospital or our patients would benefit from protracted negotiations and picketing.
Would a labor contract be a good thing for you?
Our managers work hard to accommodate the scheduling preferences of our nurses. We encourage them to be flexible and to be creative in addressing the individual needs of their staff. We discourage them from taking a "one size fits all" approach. The typical MNA labor contract does not retain that kind of flexibility.
A labor contract sets the rules of the road for the hospital, the union, and the employees represented by the union. Once that agreement is made, everyone has to follow it — even if the employee and the manager think they have a better way of doing things than what the contract says. Are you confident that a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by a small group of nurses will preserve all of the things that work well for you. It is risky to delegate to somebody else the ability to make these arrangements for you.
Even a well-intentioned committee of your colleagues may sometimes take a position in collective bargaining that is not in your personal best interests. For example, consider what happened in negotiations at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center a few years ago. At St. Elizabeth's, the cath lab nurses had a special call pay rate that did not apply to other nurses. The MNA asked St. Elizabeth's to discontinue that call pay arrangement for the cath lab nurses. The cath lab nurses filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board saying that the MNA was unfair in its representation of those nurses. You can read the unfair labor practice charge here.
What has the MNA been able to deliver for the nurses it represents at other hospitals?
The MNA is making lots of promises about how it says it can help you. They have to make promises if they are going to charge you nearly $1000 a year to represent you. For that kind of money, you should be asking yourself if the MNA has been able to deliver for the nurses they represent. Consider the following:
- The MNA hasn't negotiated "super differentials" at any of the hospitals they represent.
- They have agreed to PTO systems at other hospitals, including Good Samaritan Medical Center, Jordan Hospital, and Tobey Hospital.
- When the MNA organized the nurses at UMass Memorial in 2001, they promised they would improve staffing and those same nurses found themselves picketing in 2012 about staffing. Now the MNA has called for a one-day strike.
- Nurses represented by the MNA have been laid off at other hospitals.
- Nurses float at hospitals that have contracts with the MNA.