While many people are aware of worker’s unions in industries such as manufacturing and transportation, far fewer are aware of the impact that nursing unions have on the healthcare industry. Nursing unions have had a tremendous impact on the ways that nurses are treated and compensated. Understanding the ways that nursing unions are bettering their field can give one a more nuanced perspective on the field of healthcare and the ways that it has evolved over the years.
Here is how nursing unions are fighting for better working conditions for healthcare workers.
For nurses, dealing with contagious ailments and risky conditions is often a normalized part of everyday working life. Though this is a risk that comes with the occupation, nurses must depend on the institutions they work with to ensure that they are as safe as possible in these risky situations.
Unfortunately, institutions don’t always provide the safest working conditions to their nurses who are risking their own health to help patients. It’s at times like these when having unions to fight on behalf of the well-being of all nurses can push the industry forward and improve working conditions in healthcare institutions.
In fact, many may be surprised to discover that during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, not all healthcare institutions provided every nurse with personal protective equipment (PPE). Nursing unions played a critical role in convincing healthcare institutions to provide all nurses interacting with and treating COVID-19 patients with the proper PPE they needed to stay safe.
The PPE example highlights the value that nursing unions can have when it comes to improving working conditions for nurses across the country. Without the work and intervention of nursing unions and the nurse leaders that represent them, nursing would likely be a far riskier occupation than it is today.
Since the inception of labour unions, one of the main topics that unions in all industries focus on is compensation. In nursing, the case is no different and nursing unions are constantly applying pressure on healthcare organizations in order to secure better compensation and benefits for nurses.
However, when it comes to negotiations with healthcare organizations about wages and benefits, only unionized nurses will receive the wages that their unions get healthcare organizations to agree to. This possibility of higher pay is one of the main reasons that many nurses take the leap and join a nursing union.
As it pertains to benefits, unions are usually able to secure unionized nurses better healthcare benefits and more paid vacation time than their non-union counterparts. This is another draw that causes a significant amount of nurses to join unions.
In addition to negotiating with institutions for better salaries and benefits, unions will often also negotiate for assured raises. These raises typically correlate with the amount of time that a nurse has been with an institution. While it may cost institutions more to increase the wages of nurses over time, these institutions also benefit from having lower turnover rates as the cost of finding and hiring new nurses may potentially be even higher.
For non-union nurses, raising a complaint can be met with apathy or passiveness by employers. This is because non-union nurses have no one to support them in their claims or complaints. For unionized nurses, however, this is far from the case.
Unionized nurses can rest assured that any complaint that they raise will be taken seriously and dealt with accordingly. This is because institutions are aware that a failure to do so would cause problems with the union and could have significant consequences.
For example, if a non-union nurse files a complaint that they’re being treated unfairly by a superior, their employer may side with their superior. Unionized nurses, however, have a significantly higher chance of having something done about this problem and having the superior face consequences.
While one would hope that all employers would strive to make employees happy and address their concerns all the time, the truth is that this isn’t always the case. The fact that unions will support unionized nurses if they are having a work-related problem is yet another reason that many nurses feel compelled to join nursing unions.
While nursing unions are consistently making laudable and praiseworthy contributions to the field of nursing by fighting on the behalf of nurses, some prices come with being part of a nursing union. Being aware of these can help give one more context about what it’s like to be part of one of these groups.
One of the main aspects of being a unionized nurse that turns many nurses away is union dues. Union dues are the price that one pays to join a nursing union along with a consistent fee (typically monthly) that unionized nurses must pay to their union.
In addition to nursing dues, unionized nurses must go on strikes when their union does — regardless of personal opinions on a particular subject. While striking, unionized will likely have to forego their salaries for an extended period of time. Thankfully, strikes are not particularly common among nurses, and having to experience this isn’t necessarily a requirement of being part of a nursing union.
While they may not be the most famous or public labour unions, nursing unions have made many meaningful contributions to the field of nursing. From fighting for safer nursing conditions to getting nurses better pay, nursing unions consistently fight to improve the working lives of the nurses they serve. Though there are some consolations that nurses may have to make to join a union, the immensely beneficial acts of nursing unions make it clear why many nurses think that it’s worth it to join.