National Nurses United

National Nurse Magazine March 2012

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Minnesota RNs Defeat Union-Busting Bill E MINNESOTA lected officials got a taste of union ire as they attempted to force-feed a ���right-to-work��� measure through the Minnesota Legislature in March. They came away with more than an upset stomach. Nurses blitzed the Capitol, along with 2,000 other workers, to protest at a Senate committee hearing where the bill was being heard for the first time. With a just few days��� notice, union activists hustled to issue the warning of what could happen if the bill progressed in the legislative process. So-called ���right-to-work��� legislation allows workers to avoid paying their fair share for the bargaining and representation work of the union. Workers lined the room and the hallways, some in full work gear or uniform, and sent chants ringing into the ears of officials and aides. At times, testimony in support of the proposed constitutional amendment was drowned out by the voices, but the room fell silent when Minnesota Nurses Association member Ursula Tuttle, a registered nurse at Abbott MARCH 2012 Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, stepped up to the microphone. Speaking of her experience in a right-to-work state, she described a situation where nurses didn���t speak up against horrific conditions. ���I think they were afraid of retaliation,��� she said. ���A culture of fear existed because they didn���t have the collective protection of a union contract.��� Outside the Senate hearing room, MNA Economic and General Welfare Commission Chair, Jennifer Michelson, RN explained why she will always fiercely fight to defeat any right-to-work legislation. ���With a union behind me, I know I can advocate for my patients,��� said Michelson. ���If I see trends in patient care that aren���t correct, I can go to the Legislature and say ���This is not right; this is just a cost-cutting measure of a corporation.��� If my patient at the worksite has a problem where I believe the care is not appropriate, I have committees I can go to. I can advocate for that patient without worrying that I would be fired because I���m a squeaky wheel.��� In addition to the rally, nurses set the Internet abuzz with hundreds of missives sent through MNA���s web-based Grassroots W W W. N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G Action Center. Legislators were pounded by emails from nurses at all hours of the night and day���whenever nurses could get a break. The notes were spontaneous and powerful. Registered nurse Michelle Donovan wrote, ���I could not have a stronger opinion about this issue. I am an RN and I just returned to MN after working for 4 years in a ���right to work��� state [without a union]. I have never in my ENTIRE nursing career felt so powerless to protect my patients. We all worked grueling hours, had grossly inadequate numbers of staff, and absolutely no support network. It was made clear by nonmedical management that we were to do the job and not complain. The message was clear: ���You are not valued as an employee and we don���t care about the patient���s welfare. Just keep them alive until discharge. If you cannot put up and shut up then leave and we will replace you.������ The bill moved out of committee by a one-vote margin, but senators and representatives alike took a sobering lesson from the rally ��� and nurses��� messages. By late March, the conservative Senate majority leader publicly declared ���the votes aren���t there for right-to-work.��� ���Jan Rabbers N AT I O N A L N U R S E 5

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