The article "Associations join pro-union ranks" (July 5, p. 6) was a good piece of reporting, but it missed the mark on some important issues.
The story says professional associations for doctors and nurses have historically "eschewed" the labor movement but are now joining its ranks. I beg to differ. The American Nurses Association is the oldest and largest union for registered nurses and has been a registered labor union since 1946. In addition, the ANA's member state nurses associations have represented RNs for collective bargaining for more than 50 years.
While not all state associations offer collective-bargaining services, the ANA has always supported those that do-and is now able to focus that effort more effectively through the formation of the United American Nurses, a labor group within the ANA.
Far from tearing our organization apart, as your article implies, formation of the UAN was done with advice from all state nurses associations in such a way that even those not involved in union activities are clear that this new structure is a win for all of us. Unionizing is not splitting apart our association. We have found a way to address the interests and concerns of all our members. In addition to creating the UAN, our House of Delegates also created a task force that will focus on workplace advocacy through strategies other than collective bargaining. We have built a house for nursing with room for all.
Even before the creation of the UAN, the ANA supported state nurses associations in their organizing and workplace advocacy efforts. All RNs have benefited. For example, the ANA lobbied for and helped secure the standard 40-hour workweek for RNs in the late 1930s. In the mid-1970s, the ANA successfully urged the National Labor Relations Board to establish a separate unit for RNs.
Today 125,000 RNs are represented by state nurses associations. Our research and experience show that RNs prefer to be represented by RNs. State nurses associations bring collective-bargaining experience and a commitment to professional practice advocacy to the table-advancing strong nursing practices to ensure that patients receive high-quality care.
State nurses associations have negotiated precedent-setting contract language, which protects both patients and nurses. The language ensures appropriate staffing, prohibits mandatory overtime and prohibits inappropriate "floating" of nurses, or requiring nurses to work in units for which they don't have the training necessary to deliver good care-for example, a pediatric nurse's being assigned to a geriatric ward.
At the core of our labor activities is our commitment to the nursing practice. State nurses associations and the ANA are the voices of professional nursing. Together, we champion the right and responsibility of nurses to advocate for patients. Far from "eschewing" labor activities, we understand that this work is an important strategy that advances quality care.
American Nurses Association