In New York, much like across the country, the battle continues with the State Nurses Associations and SEIU/1199. In a time when unions preach that unity is utmost importance and utilize the manta, “united we bargain, divided we beg”, the SEIU is striving to conquer all of healthcare even if that means “raiding.” Raiding is a growing trend (in both healthcare and non-healthcare settings) within the unions, in which a rival union pushes for the decertification of an incumbent union in exchange for a chance of representation of the workforce.
Raiding and conflict amongst the unions is viewed as a positive by management because the perception is that when two unions fight, management has a better chance to win. In reality this actually leads to low employee morale, negative employee feelings, and division among staff. There have been many times that we have witnessed first hand, health care workers, even nurses, refuse to help their other colleague who did not hold the same union opinion as they did, even if patient care was the issue.
The SEIU has attempted for many years to emerge as the leading healthcare union in the country. Currently their membership is estimated at approximately 1.8 million workers. However, the SEIU has begun an attempt to take in and absorb the Registered Nurses even if it means doing battle with the State Nurses Associations and raiding. Back in September of 2007, the United American Nurses, the labor arm of the American Nurses Association, entered into affiliation talks with the SEIU. Michigan withdrew in November of 2007 and by December, nurses associations in four states (New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington} withdrew from the United American Nurses. This was a result of their desire to steer clear of the SEIU. In withdrawing their membership, the number of RN’s in the UAN dropped by 50%.
In retaliation the SEIU has been engaging in decertification campaigns in New York in an attempt to unionize the nurses into their union. The first election was held on May 14, 2008 in Long Island New York. They were successful and NYSNA has been decertified. There are three other pending decertification campaigns in Long Island alone. This is not the first time that the SEIU has attempted to take NYSNA membership. Over at Bronx Lebanon Hospital, the SEIU attempted a decertification campaign in the early 2000’s because Dennis Rivera, then president of 1199 New York, was angry because the NYSNA did not want to merge in with him. The continued fight will only get worse and escalate.
What does this mean to non-union hospitals and healthcare facilities? The answer is simple, DIVISION of the workers. Organizers are routinely sent into facilities, which are being organized to divide workers between unions so that another union does not win. For example, at Albany Medical Center, where the AFT/ NYSUT had filed for a NLRB election, the main priority of NYSNA was not to win, but to block the AFT from winning. SEIU/ 1199 also joined in the fight and the AFT successfully lost the election. However, almost 7 years later, there have been a total of 4 elections, all lost by the unions, but at least 40% of the workers are divided from their colleagues. In California, the California Nurses Association, with 25,000 members, disaffiliated from the ANA and other states in the early 1990’s. The CNA has had an agreement with the SEIU for joint organizing in the early 2000’s, but since then, the agreement has fallen apart. The CNA has been successful in organizing in many states including Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, and Ohio. Again, the SEIU and the CNA are engaging in raiding each other’s bargaining units and competing for the same workers.
Division like this does not help the employees in healthcare and this can lead to a decrease in patient satisfaction. If the workers are fighting, how can they work together?
As a final note, it would not be surprising that the states that disaffiliated with the UAN eventually affiliate with the CNA or another AFL- CIO union. This is a necessity for any union in order to have the funding to successfully organize. Remember, the CNA is already affiliated with the AFL- CIO. So why are the unions targeting healthcare? The answer is simple: Money, Money, Money!