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Understanding the Union Difference: Organizing as a Solution to the Nurse Staffing Crisis

Larry Lipschultz, Health Professionals and Allied Employees, American Federation of Teachers, 110 Kinderkamack Road, Emerson, NJ 07630, 201/262-5005, llipschultz@hpae.org

When nurses don't have a union and a union contract, a hospital administration can dictate all the conditions under which the employees work. Rules can be changed without notice, paid time taken away, mandatory overtime implemented and floating increased. This affects nurses as employees and also has a profound - and negative - impact on patient care. When a nurse is floated into an unfamiliar unit with little or no orientation, when an exhausted nurse is forced to work a double shift, when nurses are driven out of the profession because of declining conditions, the quality of patient care is affected.

This presentation will describe the difference a union and a union contract can make to hospital nurses and to the care that they can provide patients. Through contract negotiations and union contracts, union nurses have a strong voice in determining their salary, benefits and working conditions through contract provisions such as limits on forced "floating" and "float" pay; input into staffing levels; restrictions on the use of mandatory overtime; paid "sleep days"; clinical ladder programs; elimination of shift rotation; protection against unjust discipline; health and safety guarantees; tuition reimbursement as well as educational and certification differentials, among others.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, the participant will be able to

Keywords: Nurses,

Related Web page: www.hpae.org

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The Nurse Staffing Crisis: Solutions

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA