“It takes a union…”

In New York City, bus shelter ads with a message of safe staffing are up to support the contract campaigns.

By now, no one has any doubts that we’re not the organization we once were. Many members used to see the union as something apart: a third party. That reality allowed our employers to run roughshod over us, attacking our pensions, benefits, practice and even basic principles of respect on the job.

NYSNA nurses realized that the union had to play a more assertive role. We voted for new leadership with a new vision. Thus NYSNA entered a period of transformation. The critical element of change is active involvement of our nurses. Leadership is as powerful as members demand; progress is only possible with an educated and immersed membership.

Building a campaign

These principles are the key components of the 2014 NYC Private Sector Bargaining Campaign: 18,000 nurses taking on the most powerful corporate medical systems in New York City. The planning of this campaign and the various stages have been two years in the making. Leader and member involvement is ongoing, with constant interaction from our base (all members), our local leaders (stewards, delegates, officers and negotiating committees), the board of directors and staff. While labor intensive, this is the only way to build and create a successful campaign.

Our bargaining resonates

The nurses who work in the huge (and growing) Mega Medical Systems are no more important than the smallest bargaining units; but the strategic value of harnessing our energies as a unified whole in confronting these systems is unparalleled. What happens in this round of bargaining will have implications across the state and beyond, as well as on every hospital floor.

If we are to win staffing legislation, a humane healthcare system, dignified retirement and contractual agreements that support us on the job and in our daily lives, this campaign provides a platform to move this agenda forward.

A collective approach

All nurses have the right to be treated with the same level of respect, benefits, support and resources to deliver quality care to our patients. Our collective approach to these negotiations serves as a model for setting such standards.

This model must be built from the grass roots. The Contract Action Teams or Local Bargaining Councils have been instrumental in generating power at the bargaining table, on the units and in the entire union. Nurses across New York have engaged in actions, and management is now dealing with us in ways we never dreamed possible.

Whatever your level of involvement may be, it’s time to step it up a notch. “It takes a village to raise a child.” It takes an entire union to transform dreams into realities.

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