ONA’s Cabinet on Economic and General Welfare (E&GW) is proposing to amend ONA bylaws to allow other employees represented by ONA under collective bargaining agreements to become members of ONA. This would enable LPNs, CNAs, PAs, social workers, and others covered by an ONA collective bargaining agreement to enjoy the full rights of ONA membership.
This proposal will be voted on during ONA’s 2016 House of Delegates in April. The following series explores the reasons behind the proposed change and how it will affect ONA.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact ONA Assistant Executive Director for Labor Relations Alan Yoder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representing More than Nurses: Part 1
It used to be that you could walk down the hall to the payroll office and fix a mistake on your paycheck. You could make an appointment with the human resource office to discuss arrangements for your maternity or paternity leave. You could resolve other issues at the local level.
That is no longer the case. A hospital’s decision makers are no longer in the building. Worse still, in many cases, they are no longer in Oregon. The farther removed they are from the work we do at the bedside, the harder it is for us to make changes, especially when we only speak for one group in the workforce. The continuing corporatization of health care is driving the need for us to work collaboratively with other employees to maintain our ability to bring about meaningful change in our workplaces.
That is one reason we need to represent more than nurses: to speak with one voice when dealing with multi-state corporations. With each new voice, it becomes harder for an employer to refuse to address common concerns. It becomes harder for an employer to drive a wedge between various groups. We are stronger as a union when we are working together, not apart.
This change will alter ONA, but it will allow us to adapt to the times, as we are increasingly negotiating with corporate entities, rather than colleagues.
Representing More than Nurses: Part 2
Regularly, nurses who work in long-term care, rehabilitation centers and clinics contact ONA to see if we would be willing to represent them. Not surprising, very few of the employees in these settings are nurses, but the conditions they are working under are deplorable. There are stories of violence against the staff members. There are stories of unilateral terminations for speaking up about working conditions. There are stories about feeling unable to practice safely. But we must turn these calls away.
The reality is we can’t effect change in a workplace representing a small group of employees. For example, the five nurses at a long-term care facility by themselves can’t effect meaningful change to their wages, benefits, and working conditions. Those nurses will need to collaborate with the other employees at the long-term care facility. They’ll need to be part of one bargaining unit that collaborates on shared concerns.
That is what our proposed bylaw changes would allow us to do. They allow us to organize nurses and other employees that work in long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and clinics. Once organized, they gain a voice in our union where their concerns around staffing could be addressed, their concerns around low wages and benefits could be discussed during negotiations and their concerns about workplace safety could be resolved.
This change will alter ONA, but it will allow us to give nurses and other employees in these settings a voice on issues like workplace safety, staffing and benefits.
Representing More than Nurses: Part 3
Expanding our membership will allow the LPN’s and PA’s that we currently represent at Multnomah County, LPN’s at American Red Cross, Bay Area Hospital, Coquille Valley Hospital, Good Shepherd Medical Center and McKenzie-Willamette Hospital and hospitalists at Sacred Heart Medical Center to fully participate in our union.
Despite some of these individuals being extraordinary leaders within their bargaining units, they have no voice within ONA. They can’t hold statewide leadership positions. They can’t attend our House of Delegates. They can’t vote on dues increases or our leadership. They are denied a voice in the very union that claims to speak for them.
But we benefit from them being part of our union because they enable us to speak with a more cohesive voice in bargaining units where every voice matters. Take Multnomah County for example; that unit has forty LPN’s and PA’s represented by ONA. Along with the 240 registered nurses, those three groups are able to collaborate on common concerns around patient load, scheduling, and working conditions.
With each new voice, it becomes harder for the County to refuse to address common concerns. It becomes harder for the County to drive a wedge between various groups. We are stronger as a union when we are working together, not apart.
This change will alter ONA, but it will allow us to adapt and come together to advance our shared interests.
Representing More than Nurses: Part 4
ONA has always and will always represent Oregon’s nurses. However, our mission and purpose is also to provide high-quality health care to patients and improve health standards and access to care for all people. By representing more health care professionals, we increase our voice to make the health care improvements ONA has always stood for.
As we’ve seen time-and-again, patient care issues and workplace problems aren’t limited to one profession. We need a team-based approach to improve patient care and address chronic workplace issues. For example, we’ve seen employers address nurse staffing issues by increasing the number of nurses, while cutting the number of CNAs. This shifts problems without solving them. As a unified group, we can advocate for real solutions.
This change will alter ONA, but it will allow us to address staffing and patient care issues systemically.