NEW YORK NURSE: October/November 2008
Building a positive future for both the union and the profession became the common thread for activities at NYSNA’s annual “Labor Day” on Friday, Sept. 26.
At open forums during meetings of the NYSNA Congress of Bargaining Unit Leaders and the Delegate Assembly, bargaining unit members shared their concerns about recent developments in the nation’s economy, the healthcare industry, and the labor movement. The groups then strategized about how union nurses can respond to these challenges.
Many members cited a need for experienced nurses to become mentors – not only in the workplace, but also as leaders of their bargaining units. The mentor’s role would be to identify and develop new leaders.
Members also discussed the need to move past disagreements over NYSNA’s disaffiliation from the United American Nurses, to shake off complacency, and to pull together to defend NYSNA from decertification activities by 1199SEIU. On the legislative front, topics included becoming more involved in fighting for healthcare coverage for all, including home care nurses in the mandatory overtime law, and reforming New York State’s Taylor Law – which allows public employers such as the County of Erie and City of New York to prolong and manipulate contract talks.
“We spend so much of our time taking care of our obligations to our patients and to our employers, yet we never take care of ourselves,” said Delegate Assembly Treasurer Shirley Hunter, one of many speakers who urged the association to develop a health coverage plan for retirees. Delegates discussed whether it is possible to develop a plan at multiple facilities based on the voluntary employee benefit association (VEBA) recently negotiated by NYSNA at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Diane Groneman, a respiratory therapist from Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, was appointed to the new Delegate Assembly seat representing 340 non-RN healthcare professionals in NYSNA bargaining units.
Susan Casadone from St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers was re-elected to a two-year term as president of the NYSNA Congress of Bargaining Unit Leaders. “We can make this body strong and successful,” Casadone said, noting that she intends to work toward greater stability for the Congress, the progress of which has been hampered by a lack of continuity of leadership. John Hiltunen from St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan ran unopposed for vice president and was named by acclamation.
Barbara Crane, Delegate Assembly president, discussed the efforts that went into NYSNA’s successful campaign to obtain state legislation to ban mandatory overtime, the bylaw changes passed at this year’s American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates that enable NYSNA to remain a member of the ANA, and the recent mediation sessions with the AFL-CIO following NYSNA’s disaffiliation from the United American Nurses.