In the world of “the union” organizing is a game played to win, to succeed by any means necessary. Empty promises made and lies are told. The workers believe in the organizer like a sheep led to pasture by the butcher. They want to believe, they need to believe.
I never really cared about taking false trust too far. I never worried about compromising patient care so that management can bend a knee to the workforce. I never cared because using untruths worked to my advantage.
Strikes can get messy and if you have experience with unions then you know that a strike causes people to become extremely emotional. Strikes bring out anger and fear, hope and despair. Strikers know what they are getting involved with and make their choices. The end user is always affected by a strike, which would be the customers of the car factory out on strike, or the patrons at the hotel not getting turn down service or the people living in the penthouse of an apartment complex without the doorman. But, what happens when you can’t dial 911 from your phone because the phone lines have been cut? What happens when your child shows up at school one day and the teacher has been replaced by the school lunch aide to fill in?
In my experience, strikes in the healthcare industry are the most emotional of them all. The end user is a patient, someone who is completely dependent upon the care and attention of the nurses and doctors of the healthcare facility. Union Organizers in healthcare facilities have the difficult task of turning the nurses (if they are the target) against the true “purpose” of their career.
In one hospital, during an organizing drive, the emergency room nurses were divided between pro-union and pro-company RN’s. I instructed the pro-union RN’s not to help the “enemy”. Again, I was the butcher leading the sheep. They did nothing to assist the pro-company nurse. In one situation, a RN was proud to share a story at a union meeting. She proclaimed that when the pro-company nurse asked for a stethoscope during an emergency, she denied her the stethoscope and walked away. The patient didn’t matter, the cause was far more important.
Hospitals truly feared me; the butcher coming to lead the healthcare sheep to victory because they knew a campaign affected the end user. In one hospital, there were so many babies born within the same month that the staff did not have room for all of the babies in the nursery. The hospital decided to create makeshift nurseries out of storage rooms. The accommodations were less than perfect for a baby. I knew that the hospital didn’t want to turn anyone away and lose patients to competing facilities, so I found my advantage and jumped on it. The nurses followed my lead. They were ready for a protest to help the same babies they would be hurting with a planned work stoppage. It was a perfect Catch 22; we would have a work stoppage if the hospital didn’t improve the working conditions while providing the illusion that we were “caring” for the newborns.
My “lowest” moment, in a hospital, came when we were trying to unionize this large healthcare facility and we were getting a lot of management pushback. We were two floors below the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I instructed my “sheep” to make enough noise to wake the babies every hour. This included the use of bullhorns. Management was stuck in its tracks. Parents were crying because the babies were crying. Patient care had successfully been hindered for the “cause”.
The same nurses who were seeking the union to “help” with patient care a few weeks earlier were being used as pawns. If you asked them if they would be capable of waking sick newborns to move the “cause” forward prior to my involvement, I guarantee they would have said no. But I was a master manipulator. A few nurses were terminated, but it only added fuel to my fire. Management had terminated employees for supporting the union and blocking their freedom of speech. We made this an issue, an issue that was completely fabricated. This was enough to win. We were victorious, by any means necessary!