Union solidarity at Erie County Medical Center

Heather Scott, an RN in ECMC’s Inpatient Behavior Health Unit, is excited about the changes she’s seeing in her union. “When I started working here four years ago, nurses weren’t as active in our union, but there’s been a big transformation over the past year. The word is out and ECMC nurses are getting involved.” Ms. Scott herself recently volunteered to be a Safe Staffing Captain.

She credits a new ECMC NYSNA Executive Committee for providing the leadership that’s sparking excitement and empowering the hospital’s 1,000 nurses. “One of the first changes I noticed was the NYSNA table outside payroll distribution. The Committee is there every time, handing out leaflets and inviting members to NYSNA events like Inter-regionals and even meetings outside of Buffalo.”

Action plan in motion

Mark Medakovich, RN and a member of the ECMC NYSNA Executive Committee, sees the seeds of a membership action plan beginning to sprout. “For the past year-and-a-half, we’ve made a concerted effort to build nurse power by involving more of our colleagues in our union.” Nurses plan to rev up member engagement by holding delegate elections in all units, collecting member emails to facilitate communication, and increasing the participation of ECMC RNs in statewide NYSNA events like lobby days and conventions.

Making connections

Nurse leaders dedicated the month of February to distributing the newly printed NYSNA-ECMC contract. Kevin Donovan, RN and ECMC Vice LBU President, explained why the Committee made a commitment to hand deliver the contract to every member. “The personal connection is important. It lets the nurses know that we are all in this together as NYSNA members.”

The Committee passed out hundreds of contracts during a two-day blitz early in the month. Fifty nurses volunteered to be Safe Staffing Captains. Additional contract distribution days were held later in the month, and will continue until nurse leaders have spoken to each of their colleagues face-to-face.

Increased member engagement has already led to a victory for safe staffing. ECMC’s newly-formed civic action team mobilized alongside caregivers from the Communications Workers of America and successfully lobbied the Buffalo Common Council to pass a resolution in support of safe staffing. This was just the first big action of many more to come, as the civic action team continues to organize with support from Buffalo’s political, labor and community groups.

“There’s a new level of energy and excitement about our union,” said Ms. Scott. “And that’s really important because ECMC has a lot of young nurses who are learning to be stronger advocates for themselves and their patients. That’s what NYSNA is all about.”

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