Should Nurses Have the Power to Unionize?
Jennnifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN | NursingLink
Why Nurses Are Concerned
While the current proposals only address state employees, labor leaders and others fear that proposals limiting collective bargaining will soon slip into the private sector as well. “The labor movement in Wisconsin is very historic,” Weber says. “Wisconsin was instrumental in getting the 40-hour work week and weekends off. The labor movement was instrumental in getting those things for all workers, and if the labor movement is squashed, there’s no telling how far back we’re going to be going in terms of labor everywhere, in every sector.”
Nurses such as Weber are particularly concerned because they believe that limits on collective bargaining will severely hamper their ability to advocate for safe patient environments. According to a 2004 article published in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, nurses commonly use collective bargaining to deal with issues such as:
• Mandatory and voluntary overtime
• Acuity-based staffing systems
• Use of temporary nurses
• Protection from reassignment, work encroachment by non-nurses and mandated non-nursing duties
• Provisions for work orientation and continuing education
• Whistleblower protection
• Health and safety provisions
• “Just cause” language for discipline and termination
• Provisions for nursing and multidisciplinary practice committees
What Nurses Are Doing
Nurses are among the thousands of protesters that have gathered in Madison, Wis. The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals has buses running to Madison daily; their website also includes links to an online petition and contact information for state legislators.