Research Problems, Purposes, and Hypotheses

Overview & Objectives

The next two weeks will be very low key in terms of your assigned work, but the topics are two of the most important ones in contemporary practice. This week we will be reading about nursing unions. Specifically you will be reading about why nurses choose to join unions, what benefits and drawbacks there are to belonging to a union, and the arduous process that is involved in getting union representation.

Nursing unionization is as about as volatile a subject as the entry into practice issue (requiring a BSN for entry into nursing practice). Some of you may have belonged to unions in former jobs as nurses or in other jobs prior to becoming a nurse. North Carolina is a “right to work state”, meaning that you do not have to belong to a union to work in an agency where nursing is represented by a union. A “closed shop” state is the opposite. If you want to practice in an agency where the nurses have voted to be represented by a union, then you must join the union to work at that agency. So although we have a couple of nursing groups that are unionized in North Carolina (like the Durham Veterans Hospital), few nurses in NC belong to unions. More specifically, last time I checked there were about 145 members in the nursing union at the Durham VA, and 368 nurses on staff there who were eligible (i.e. non-supervisory), but chose not to be members of the union. It’s important for you to think about the ramifications of working in an agency that has a nursing union, but you choose not to belong. Then think about the opposite scenario: you belong but the majority of your colleagues do not. Then think about yourself as a manager in an organization where unionization is a reality or a possibility.

The potential for union activity is heightened when there is a nursing crisis. That’s why you need to be aware of the pros and cons of belonging to a union given the current nursing shortage. Some of you may remember the uprising at Duke University Medical Center 3-4 years ago where many of the nurses were working to unionize the nursing staff there. The effort failed, but this was a very scary time for the nurses and the agency’s administration. I hope after you have familiarized yourself with the readings, you will understand why unionizing can be a polarizing issue for our profession.

Objectives for this week:

  1. Define collective bargaining, right to work, and closed shop.
  2. Identify reasons why nurses unionize.
  3. List the pros and cons to unionizing.