NEW YORK NURSE: May 2009
by Mark Genovese
In a pair of historic resolutions, the NYSNA Congress of Bargaining Unit Leaders requested designation as an official organizational unit and endorsed the association’s affiliation with the National Federation of Nurses.
Approximately 150 representatives from local bargaining units attended the body’s semi-annual meeting on April 20 at NYSNA’s Latham headquarters. The session was presided over by executive committee members Carlene Daley (Kings County Hospital Center), secretary; John Hiltunen (St. Vincent’s Medical Center), vice president; and Susan Casadone (St. John’s Riverside Hospital), president. It was the largest gathering of the Congress since its initial meeting in June 2004.
The motion to make the Congress an independent organizational unit of NYSNA was brought to the floor by Hiltunen and unanimously supported by the attendees. Because this would require a change in the NYSNA bylaws, a request will be sent to the Bylaws Committee to consider at its next meeting on June 1.
“In this room is the broadest base of democracy in this association. This room should have a voice,” said Barbara Crane from St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown and outgoing Delegate Assembly president. The Delegate Assembly is already designated a NYSNA organizational unit.
Some members were concerned about the possibility that putting the Delegate Assembly and Congress on equal footing would cause the two bodies to be in opposition. Some noted that when it was originally conceived, the Congress was to serve as a voting body for the Delegate Assembly and that such a structure would represent members more effectively.
Prior to the vote on endorsing affiliation with the NFN, many members spoke in favor of more structure in the new union, which would allow NYSNA to protect its autonomy while joining forces with other nurse labor organizations on issues that affect all of America. “We’ve been down this road before and we knew what we wanted, but it didn’t work,” said Diane Earl (A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital), referring to differences between NYSNA and its former national union, the United American Nurses. “Through the NFN, we will once again have a national voice.”
In an enthusiastic speech, NYSNA Chief Executive Officer Tina Gerardi thanked members for their efforts in meeting the challenges of the past year and encouraged them to continue their work toward engaging in effective political action, growing the organization, and mobilizing members.
“Focus on outcomes and what is important to nurses: healthcare reform, safe staffing, enforcement of the no mandatory overtime law, saving RN pensions, and delivery of quality patient care,” Gerardi said. “Actions speak louder than words. Find your voice, get on your feet, step up, come out and go back to your local bargaining units and support NYSNA because NYSNA supports all of you each and every day.”
EGW Program Director Lorraine Seidel spoke to the Congress about the progress made over the past year.
Citing the threat of raids on bargaining units, Seidel said it was an opportunity to assess where NYSNA stands in providing services to its members and determining what needs to be accomplished. Thanking members for their support, she noted the solidarity helped NYSNA reach a no-raid agreement with 1199SEIU.
“Together, we have found that when we blend courage, humility, honesty, and congruence with an agenda that is truly intended to benefit and safeguard our members, with the capabilities to address situations head on and a focus on results designed to stabilize our future – in the end, we prevail,” Seidel continued. “Yes we can? Surely yes – we already have!”