Occupy PhillyRN

If you live in a major metropolitan area like Philadelphia, you are more than aware of the “occupy” movements happening nationwide.  Therefore, to launch the Inquirer’s newest blog, I would like to invite you to Occupy PhillyRN.

 “Occupy” demonstrations are controversial.  They began as “Occupy Wall Street” on Sept. 17, 2011 in Manhattan’s Financial District.  They are scheduled, public, people-powered movements that have spread to over 100 cities in the United States.  Attempting to exhibit the essence of democracy - somewhat similar to a large-scale labor union picketing - protestors are criticized for having no purpose, no clear message, often stirring up unneeded violence, and requiring a heavy police presence. 

Nurses often care for patients in less-than-ideal conditions, and aren’t trained to assertively raise their concerns in a public arena. Unions are, strikes by health care workers have become common in big cities, and nurses may find themselves transitioning from caregivers to picketers overnight, hoping to quickly and peacefully resolve disputes.

I currently am employed as an Emergency Department nurse at a non-profit hospital with a nursing union although, as a per diem staff member, I am not eligible to join.  “Grievances,” “benefit packages,” and “seniority” are the buzz words I hear daily.  But are unions truly in our favor or do they hinder the growth of individual nurses?  Just as “occupy” movements are criticized, labor unions are attacked for being too political, fees too expensive, and simply crooked.

In Pennsylvania alone, competition exists between The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) and SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Healthcare Pennsylvania.  PASNAP represents over 6,000 nurses and allied health professionals;  one third of its members are employed by Temple University Health System.  Other area hospitals represented by PASNAP include Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, Lower Bucks Hospital, Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital, and Wills Eye Surgical Center.   Yet, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania labels itself as the largest union for health care workers in the state, uniting over 20,000 health care workers. 

There are several other labor unions in this arena. Do they effectively represent nurses?  Do they get in the way? Are they good for patients?   I want to hear from nurses in both union and non-union institutions.  PhillyRN can be our peaceful way to invite nurses and healthcare professionals to discuss their experiences.  After all, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that registered nurses make up the largest healthcare occupation, with 2.6 million jobs.  At a recent Nurses for Tomorrow Forum in Philadelphia, Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, chief executive officer of the National League for Nursing, stated “the demand for new nurses has exploded  . . . nurses are more skilled and earning higher salaries than ever before.”  We already have a presence!  Now, I encourage you to have an active voice & participate!

Are employees in a union happy?  Are unions successfully winning the fight over issues such as safe staffing, improved nurse-to-patient ratios, yearly raises, competitive salaries, strong benefit packages, and improved working conditions?  Would unifying the labor unions into one national nursing union be beneficial?  Is collective bargaining an appropriate synonym for a union?  Are unions effective in Washington or are they too politically affiliated? 

Occupy PhillyRN and POST the truths!