NEW YORK NURSE: November/December 2011
The best part of my position at NYSNA has been meeting hundreds of you in the past few weeks. Whether you are at one of the New York private hospitals fighting for a good contract, or a nurse in one of New York City’s public hospitals fighting for respect and dignity on the job, or a nurse practicing your craft anywhere in this region, your stories have reminded me of why NYSNA matters so much.
If we haven’t met by now, you may have heard my name and received some information about me — albeit some of it, inaccurate. So I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you — my name is Julie Pinkham, and I am the interim executive director for NYSNA during this period of transition, as the newly elected Board has now been seated by court order.
My role is not permanent. I have made it a point of my contract with NYSNA to state that I will not seek the permanent position of NYSNA’s ED. In part, this is purely to assure the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) where I was Executive Director on a full time basis, that I am not leaving my position with MNA. It also assures NYSNA the opportunity to conduct its own search for a permanent Executive Director in a deliberative manner, because this position is pivotal to the organization’s future. Your duly-elected Board has already moved to begin that search and hiring process.
Like you, I am a registered nurse, having graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1982 where I worked both at University of Massachusetts Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s hospitals respectively both in Oncology and Palliative Care and later in Trauma and Burn ICU.
My work as a staff nurse was always in a union-represented facility. Like you, I quickly understood the value of my nurses association as the union and professional association. Being in a nurses’ union, I could professionally practice and advocate for my profession and patients within my work setting as well as beyond the walls of my work facility.
To that end, I served in a number of elected leadership roles within the organization and pursued advanced degrees, receiving a Master’s of Science in Health Care Administration from Simmons College and a Master’s of Science in Labor and Industrial Relations from the University of Rhode Island. I began working as staff with the association in 1989 while continuing to work as a staff nurse until 1996, when I became labor program director, and I now serve as the Executive Director.
In the last 20 years, I’ve seen many changes in health care and watch the increasing challenges nurses face in assuring their ability to professional practice and advocacy for their patients.
So why hire an MNA Executive Director? Well, in large part, because your organization was at a critical juncture with much internal turmoil.
The requirement that a federal judge intervene in order to seat duly-elected Board members is an unprecedented event in NYSNA’s history. The focus of the past leadership in its refusal to relinquish control left the essential work of the organization and ability of staff to function effectively untenable.
The result — more than 22,000 members had expired contracts and multiple employment lawsuits had ensued along with the termination of some key staff. This situation needed to be assessed and changed rapidly. Many members needed the organization to focus and assist in resolving the overwhelming numbers of contracts that were open.
In the 53 days of my tenure (as of this letter) I have been assessing the ability of the organization to move the agenda of its membership — using the direction of its elected leadership — to affect the challenging environment of today’s health care industry. The challenges facing nursing are immense and the organization must be unified and focused if it is to prevail in its goals.
As with any change, there will be some who disagree. That is not a bad thing — in fact, it can be quite beneficial, so long as that challenge is directed in a productive manner. To that end I’d like to clarify some misinformation that has been distributed among various members.
Apparently, because of my position with the MNA (albeit part-time), several individuals have launched a fear campaign focused on the misdirected statement that I am taking over or that NYSNA is being “raided.” Raids occur when one union seeks to oust another union in order to become the bargaining agent for that unit. That is not happening — period. Any statement to the contrary is intended to create fear and misdirection.
In fact, as many of you know, I have actively been engaged with the various bargaining teams, labor staff, communications staff and governmental affairs staff to help in any way possible to bring about successful conclusions to long-standing and contentious negotiations.
Nancy Kaleda has stepped up at my request to be interim Program Director of E&GW. With her experience and knowledge within NYSNA and her direct work on the health and welfare and pension funds, we have worked in concert to unify the association’s efforts.
This has been done with the full support and effort of all NYSNA staff to assist in favorable contract resolutions. Within the context of that work, I have come to know and respect the many elected leaders and staff of NYSNA for their commitment to the members and the organization’s success.
I will continue to work to assist the organization in this time of transition. The most recent decisions of the ANA frankly leave me perplexed. If indeed the ANA fears that my temporary role will lead NYSNA to succession from the ANA, it would seem ill-advised that they themselves sever that relationship — creating the very situation they state they do not want to happen.
We will seek to alter the course of ANA’s decision. I would encourage you to contact the individuals who have pursued the action as well as the ANA president and Board of ANA to request that their actions be rescinded.
The most unfortunate aspect of their decision has been the timing, which has only disrupted the efforts to conclude contract negotiations. Certainly this can be seen by the employers’ disseminating the ANA’s letters through hospital email to the nurses. Their effort seeks to undermine NYSNA during difficult contract negotiations.
While I am not surprised by the employers’ actions in this regard, I am disturbed it is ANA leadership actions that provided the means. The Board of Directors will review the options available to have the ANA rescind its decision. To the extent that does not immediately happen, we will review the options available to NYSNA members and will disseminate that information.
Our most important work is representing NYSNA members effectively — on the job, with our communities and with state and local decision makers.
My focus will be to assist the Board in creating a work environment in which NYSNA staff and members are able to meet the challenges of today’s healthcare environment, while assuring the best possible quality of care and professional standards of practice that we all believe our patients deserve in whatever venue we practice.
My sincere regards,
Julie Pinkham RN
Interim executive director, NYSNA