Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Along with a bunch of fellow nurses, Carol Koelly, reports the Chicago Tribune, plopped down around noon Tuesday in the middle of a busy downtown Chicago street, joined her union colleagues in loud chants, and then waited to be carted off by police.

"We are standing up for our patients," shouted Koelly, of San Bernardino, Calif., who came to Chicago to participate in the rally by unionized nurses and other union members outside the offices of the American Hospital Association.

The demonstrators had planned to rally inside the office building where the Hospital Association is housed. But on arrival, they found it closed and moved their protest to Franklin just north of Madison in front the building.

"We made our point," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, the parent organization for the National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents Cook County's nurses.

DeMoro, whose organization had arranged the rally, vowed to hold similar demonstrations across the U.S. "We are going to escalate," she declared.

At issue is an imminent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which the Bush Administration has stacked with management attorneys and members who are hostile to unions, on a series of pending cases. The AHA, joined by the national Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests, want to eliminate the rights of nurses and other lead employees who assign and delegate work to others to form and join unions.

For nurses, the decision could unfairly strip the ability of RNs to advocate for their patients, without the threat of retaliation, and their colleagues, threatening patient safety and prompting chaos in hospitals across the country.

In a statement issued before the action, RNs Working Together, a coalition of 11 AFL-CIO affiliates that represent over 200,000 registered nurses, said:
"Nurses will not stand by and allow their union rights go up in smoke. It is imperative that hospitals and the NLRB acknowledge the importance of nurses as patient advocates and continue to recognize their right to union protection. Nurses can't truly speak up for their patients if they fear jeopardizing their jobs, which is why they need a union behind them."

The action was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC). Other participating organizations included the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Chicago Jobs With Justice, Maine State Nurses Association/NNOC, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, Nurses Professional Organization- Kentucky/NNOC, Physicians for a National Health Program, Communication Workers of America District 4, United Steel Workers District 7, and Pennsylvania Assn. of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.

The article below is from the Chicago Sun Times.

Nurses sit in to protest feared labor rulings

Worry over pending federal labor board rulings that unions contend could strip millions of workers of their rights to organize prompted nurses and union representatives to stage a protest rally and sit-in in the Loop on Tuesday.

The unions are worried that the National Labor Relations Board might soon broaden the definition of a supervisor. Such action would strip affected workers of their existing contract protections and deny them their right to organize, the AFL-CIO and other labor groups stress.

Roughly 200 nurses marched and rallied in front of the American Hospital Association's office downtown in a demonstration organized by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents Cook County nurses.

The union was protesting public comment filed by the association with the labor board supporting making "charge nurses," those responsible for scheduling and dividing duties of other nurses, supervisors. That would affect tens of thousands of RNs, who work as charge nurses, and jeopardize patient care, union representatives contend.

Chanting "AHA Shame on You" and "Patients Not Profits," workers marched from Daley Plaza to the building housing the hospital association on North Franklin, and temporarily blocked a portion of the street with the sit-in.

"Patients won't have advocates to stand up for them," because without contract protections, speaking out could place nurses' jobs in jeopardy, said Dianna Dosie, an RN at Stroger Hospital who participated in the protest.

"They are trying to force charge nurses to be part of management," she said. "But we don't have the power like management. We don't hire and fire. They could fire me on the spot."

Nurses need to be able to continue to speak out about patient care in a way that's unencumbered, said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro.

The association said in its brief to the labor board: "In the health care field, labor and management generally share a common goal -- promoting patient welfare. In times of labor strife, however, health care workers, like any other employees, will represent their own interests."

When charge nurses are allowed to unionize, they're more likely to align with unionized nurses during labor disputes, and they're less likely to monitor and discipline the nurses in their bargaining unit, the association wrote in the brief filed nearly three years ago.

". . . Hospitals recognize that health care workers strive everyday to provide the best care possible," the association said in a released statement Tuesday. ". . . All hospitals are committed to becoming employers of choice and working diligently to maintain safe, effective care for everyone."

The Chicago rally was one of a series of protests and demonstrations that have taken place across the country in recent weeks, with support from the AFL-CIO, to raise awareness on the pending rulings and criticize what unions have labeled a pro-employer labor board.

The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, has said workers in 35 occupations ranging from computer systems analysts, to private guards, police officers and RNs could be stripped of their contract protections and prohibited from organizing, depending on the ruling.

Labor groups believe rulings are imminent.

Daniel Parker, a spokesman for the NLRB, said he could not say when the board will act, but he noted the board will be guided by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in making its rulings.

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