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April 29, 2008

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latonia

David,

Thank you for the post and presenting your views, values, and perspective on the CNA/NNOC. We are all nurses and on this blog the opinion of every nurse means something and will be published on this very sensitive topic.

Daavid Welch, RN

Whew! There's a lot one could talk about in this posting. We come from different parts of the country, and different organizational perspectives, but have come to some of the same conclusions. And some that are different, which is fine too.
Intro: I'm a baby boomer, nurse for 27 years, in a semi-rural area in Northern California. In 2000 I helped organize my hospital with the California Nurses Assn, became ever more involved, now on BOD and exec board of CNA/NNOC. Participated in the decision to become a national union (the NNOC part) beginning in 2004.
A lot of the organizational politics you speak of, among ANA, UAN, ONA etc, I have little knowledge of.
But I do have a few random thoughts:
Many of my fellow board members were around when our organization changed from a professional assn. with a union attached to a union that still fulfills many of the functions of a professional organization.
That was in 1993. I wasn't around for it, but I've heard a lot about it. It is crystal clear to me that a professional organization - typically dominated by managers and academic nurses - and a union can not co-exist effectively under one roof. The goals, needs, desires and temperaments are not compatable. Again, though, there is no reason a union can not fulfill many of the goals and functions of a professional organization - ours does, and very well. We advocate for the whole profession in California and beyond - in the legislature, before regulatory agencies, etc.
It is important that a nurses' union have the broadest possible conception of its role. As nurses, we are called always to be patient advocates, which we hold to mean not just for the patient in bed in front of us on a given day at work, but for the whole community we serve. This is why our overriding political mission at CNA/NNOC is to reform the American healthcare "system" into something that serves patients and those who care for them rather than corporate profit.

While it is perfectly true that many nurses will never be organized, the number who are can and should be far greater than it is today. The first necessity is that Nurses' unions put substantial resources into organizing. I believe CNA/NNOC devotes a larger part of its total budget to new organizing than any union in America.
The second requirement is that unions have a vision about WHY they are organizing. Are we just growing to grow, or are we growing to gain the power to change things? At CNA/NNOC we have a very clear answer to that question.
Thirdly - and there are legitimate reasons to disagree with this - I believe that nurses want to be in NURSES' unions. There are all sorts of reasons for this. Some of it is an elitism that is less than admirable. But the really good reason comes back to the patient advocacy part again. As a RN union, we almost never find ourselves in a position where representing the needs of our members conflicts with the public good and the needs or our patients. If we were trying to represent the needs of many classes of workers, the territory becomes much blurrier.
If you do in fact find the organizations to which you now belong no longer represent your needs, consider an individual membership in NNOC - We have more than 5,000 across the country. While many of those joined with the idea of organizing in their area someday, they are also working on issues like healthcare reform, staffing ratios and disaster response capacities. And in some areas - notably Texas - have done great work in workplace advocacy for non-unionized nurses.

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