On February 7, 2013, the board of ONA’s national federation, the National Federation of Nurses (NFN), took the first step to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
AFT is a 1.5 million-member union, the largest union of professionals in the AFL-CIO. AFT represents teachers and school staff, college and university professors, public employees, and more than 48,000 registered nurses. We believe that this affiliation will increase our power to advocate for our patients, make our association stronger, and help us organize thousands more of our fellow RNs across the country. The NFN’s decision is the first step.
The next step? ONA, in accordance with our bylaws, will hold our own vote on affiliation during a special House of Delegates on March 16, 2013 in Portland.
If you are an ONA delegate who served in the 2012 House of Delegates, please make every effort to be available in Portland on March 16 for this important special House of Delegates. Please take a moment and register for the HOD online at here (login required).
Affiliation isn’t a decision that we take lightly. ONA is an important part of the preeminent independent national union of registered nurses in the United States, so we have a lot on the line and a proud history to protect. ONA and our national union, the NFN, are outstanding in our abiding commitment to nursing as a calling, our tireless fight for patient-centered care, and our determination to make nurses’ voices heard and respected. Our top priority in any affiliation is safeguarding that heritage and furthering that mission.
In AFT we’ve found a partner that respects our autonomy, shares our goals, and appreciates the history, achievements, and energy our members bring to the table. With this partnership, ONA and our national federation will enhance our organizing, mobilizing, and patient advocacy through allying with the 1.5 million-member AFT—a union that understands the high professional standards that we as RNs hold ourselves to, and a union that already has a strong history of organizing RNs and championing our professional agenda on issues such as safe staffing, bans on mandatory overtime, and health care access and affordability.
Under the affiliation agreement, the AFT has pledged ongoing resources to our union in vital areas—including organizing, policy and professional issues, research, communications, occupational safety and health, professional development, and political and legislative mobilization. What’s more, affiliation with the AFT will confer protection on us from raids or interference by other unions that might not respect our goals or put our members’ best interests first. Through partnering with the AFT, we offer much and we gain much: resources, respect, autonomy, and protection from attacks.
You may be asking: What will change for us with this affiliation? The only changes we foresee will be for the better. We’ll have more resources, more reach, and more opportunity to build the nationwide network of union RNs we envision. But we will stay who we are and stay free to make our own decisions and operate as we wish. It’s the best of both worlds. What’s more, this affiliation includes a four-year trial period so that both unions can see how it’s working. Under the four-year trial period, our union can dissolve the affiliation without penalty.
Nothing we value about ONA membership will change. We’ll keep our American Nurses Association membership and our benefits and rights as members—along with a broad new range of AFT membership benefits.
We don’t have to tell you that the health care landscape in our country is changing rapidly. We all feel it every day on the front lines of patient care. Yes, our union could keep right on “going it alone” and achieving great things. But we—and our patients—have so much to gain from joining forces with the AFT. Together, we can advocate even more powerfully for high professional standards; quality patient care; and safe working conditions. Together, we can bring so many more nurses into our movement and strengthen our voice at every level, from the bedside to the halls of Congress.
Affiliation comes down to one simple belief: Both unions will be stronger together, and the patients and communities we serve will be better off.
For full ONA members, you will find a fact sheet on this affiliation and how it works, as well as many other documents that outline the affiliation proposal and the process of affiliation on the ONA website here. (You will need to login to the ONA website to view the page). If you are interested in becoming a full member to gain access to the members only information and have a voice in guiding the future of the organization, we would love to have you. You can learn more about membership on the ONA website under the “Member Services” menu.
Thank you, as always, for all you do to make ONA the incredible organization it is, and for the endless dedication and talent you bring to our profession every single day. We believe that this affiliation will be a wonderful partnership. We can stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow RNs in the AFT now, ready for the challenges and opportunities that the coming years will bring—and never forgetting that we speak for our patients as no one else can do.
Stephen Rooney, RN and Julie Shuff, RN