Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unions: A Double Edged Sword

Union membership comes with the job at Kaiser Permanente. And while I labor under a brand-spanking-new contract that arguable makes me one of the highest paid nurses on the planet, I often find myself at odds with the advice and tactics of CNA (the California Nurse’s Association).
The work stoppage of September 22nd is a good example. Twenty-two days into a newly minted, CNA negotiated, and extremely generous contract, nurses were asked, by CNA, to honor a one-day work stoppage with workers negotiating their first contract between NUHW (National Union of Healthcare Workers) and Kaiser. I personally found the request shocking and divisive.

Most Kaiser North Valley (greater Sacramento) nurses were surprised to learn that 34 hospitals and 23,000 nurses throughout the Central Valley and northern state were affected by the CNA call-to-action. Clearly this was a CNA flex of muscle and show of power. “The nation’s largest-ever strike by nurses,” CNA reported.
“When I learned that Sutter’s and Children’s nurses were out I thought good, I’m supporting them too,” one colleague said. That’s certainly one way to look at it.  

I’ll assert that few Kaiser nurses had knowledge of a larger, coordinated, and politicized call-to-action by CNA. Why was that information withheld? Why were Kaiser nurses asked to participate while local Sutter nurses did not support the Sutter Bay Area work stoppage?

In my book, withholding information is tantamount to lying. I want “to know”, not “find out” on the evening news. In other arenas it’s called a sucker punch. Shame on you CNA!
Full disclosure and informed choice may not have changed the outcome of the day but that does not negate their obligation, nay duty, to fully disclose. I do have the option to divert my union dues to charity. When my shiner and fat lip heal, I may investigate that option.
Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me.

NOTE: I am debating on sending this to the Sacramento Bee – Letters to the Editor. The problem is two fold. First, it is written as if I unknowingly went out on strike. I did not. I chose to report for work on my day off to support Kaiser through this day. Second… retribution. Kaiser is a CNA stronghold, the issue is polarizing, and … as you learned in my last episode with the robot, I CLUCK, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck.

1 comment:

  1. Tough one Lorin. I faced a similar issue with United Teachers LA. I didn't write about it, but I terminated my union membership. That cost me plenty, because I still had to pay a fee (almost equal to the union dues) to them w/o getting some benefits which included insurance. For me it was a matter of principle. A few years later, I left teaching altogether.