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New nurses' union.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) recently announced the establishment of a new, national nurses union, the United Nurses of America, and an action plan that calls for "organizing the 75 percent of America's 2.2 million registered nurses (RN's) and licensed practical nurses (LPN's) who do not now enjoy collective bargaining" rights. The new union will be cochaired by Kathy Sackman, the current president of the United Nurses Association of California and an AFSCME International Vice-President, and Faye Krohn, also an AFSCME International VicePresident. Addressing the National Nurses Congress this year, Sackman said, "We are determined to give this Nation's working nurses a voice that nobody can ignore: not hospital managements, not professional and trade associations, not insurance companies, politicians, or anybody else. And we intend to use that voice to restore sanity to this Nation's health care system and restore fairness to the nursing profession."

The United Nurses' action plan calls for improving wages and working conditions of all nurses (RN's and LPN's); a national legislation agenda, including proposals for universal, quality health care, and the enactment of child care legislation and the Family and Medical Leave Act; elimination of discriminatory pay practices; the establishment of career ladders based on education, training, and longevity; and ensuring that health care providers have adequate staff to ameliorate the increasing injury rates at health care facilities. In addition to traditional collective bargaining objectives, the action plan calls for resolving the nurse shortage by improving nurses' pay to prevent wage compression, increasing wage differentials for undesirable or hazardous shifts, shifting nonnursing duties to ancillary personnel, lobbying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue standards on blood-borne diseases, and instituting flexible work schedules and working conditions to encourage people to enter and remain in the health care industry.

The creation of this new labor organization is an outgrowth of the affiliation of several districts of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees with AFSCME last year when about 28,000 Hospital and Health Care Employees members joined AFSCME's ranks in a district-by-district vote. (An additional 42,000 voted to join the Service Employees Union.) Combined with other nursing units, the new national organization currently has 36,000 members in 36 States.

The new labor organization is committed to organizing nurses and is anxiously awaiting a decision on the question of what groups of employees constitute appropriate bargaining units in the health care industry. Last year, a Federal judge enjoined the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal agency empowered to conduct representation elections in most industries, from implementing its decision to establish eight "appropriate" bargaining units in the health care industry, including a separate unit for registered nurses and a unit combining licensed practical nurses with technical workers. (See Monthly Labor Review, August 1989, p. 52.) The case is currently in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
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Title Annotation:Developments in industrial relations; United Nurses of America
Author:Cimini, Michael H.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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