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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gutting Labor Rights for Nurses -- and Millions of Others | TPMCafe

Today, nurses will rally across the country to protest likely decisions by the National Labor Relations Board that would declare most Registered Nurses (RNs) to be "supervisors" under the law and therefore stripped of any protection under labor law. If these rulings go as expected, hundreds of thousands of RNs across the country could be fired at will if they say anything positive about unions or are even suspected of being in favor of unions.

The core of the problem derives from the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act which denies labor rights to "supervisors", meaning that anyone deemed a supervisor can be fired at will if they say anything nice about unions or try to take action to support unions in their workplace.
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Once upon a time, it was generally understood that a supervisor was someone who had some degree of power to hire and fire those below them, but the in a series of decisions, the courts and NLRB have expanded the meaning of supervisor to mean people who, because of their expertise, direct the actions of other employees in some way.

How far this goes has been disputed, but essentially since Registered Nurses often direct other hospital employees on what routine tasks need to happen for patients, the move is to strip RNs of their labor rights.

And here's the kicker-- once a group of nominal "supervisors" lose their labor rights and can be threatened with being fired, they are forced to become anti-union shock troops to spy on other employees and undermine unionization by other workers. So not only does this kind of decision threaten unions for RNs, it threatens the labor rights of workers throughout the health care industry.

This is all part of a trend where the NLRB and the courts, without any legislative change, have been overturning decades of rules to deny workers rights to a wide range of employees previously protected under the law. This American Rights at Work memo outlines additional attacks on labor rights by the NLRB in recent years:

# July 2004: Graduate teaching and research assistants were deemed students and not employees, making them ineligible for NLRA protection.
# September 2004: The Labor Board determined that disabled workers who receive rehabilitative services from employers should not be classified as workers and are, therefore, ineligible to form unions under the protections of federal law.
# November 2004: Employees of temp agencies were barred from organizing with regular employees without both employer and agency permission.

This is on top of a range of other rulings that have weakened protections for workers still covered by labor law but now subject to be fired if they stand up for their rights in the workplace.

But this attack on RNs as nominal "supervisors" could lead to the largest number of workers stripped of their labor rights in modern history. And it could cascade through other workplaces as employers strategically hand nominal supervisory roles to various workers to strip them of their labor rights.

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Jul 11, 2006 -- 08:27:04 AM EST | Tags:
On July 11, 2006 - 3:10pm kikokimba said:

Let's cut right to the chase before this thread goes way out of whack. Comparing nurses to school teachers and overlaying the issue with good labor union-bad labor union arguments are beside the point.

Nurses -- not doctors, administrators or pharmacists -- are the people who make hospitals tick. They are historically underpaid, overused and abused and have brought much of the grief upon themselves because they are taught to be advocates for their patients and not themselves.

Classifying nurses as supervisors so they can be further screwed will only exacerbate a national nursing shortage that grows more grave by the year. Nurses are being driven out of the profession and nursing schools are unable to provide replacements because the very people that need them the most -- the vast majority of hospitals that have become profit driven and not health-care driven -- treat their most valuable assets like sh*t.

For the candid comments of a career RN on all of this, go to perspective-its-nightmare_08.html

Let' focus on the main issue, not everyone's pet side issues. Please!
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On July 11, 2006 - 1:27pm Bama Belle said:

I think the driving force is the nursing shortage in this country. Now, under most contracts, nurses get paid overtime per hour. But if they're supervisors, they're not under the contract anymore. It's easier to switch them to salary and require them to work regular overtime without extra compensation. Sure, it might fill the gaps on the floor right now without costs rising, but patient care will suffer, and the shortage will only get worse in the longterm.

To connect this to the larger anti-union movement, the fact is that unions often function to protect the quality of the goods and services you receive, as much as they protect the quality of paycheck received by their employees. You simply don't want overworked and underpaid people trying to meet unrealistic expectations in an oppressive environment- whether it's moving heavy equipment, teaching your children, or giving you a shot. Quality will suffer.
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On July 11, 2006 - 11:35am KevStar said:

Health care workers, hell--if they can do this to nurses, they'll go after teachers next. Who directs what goes on in their workplace more than teachers?
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On July 11, 2006 - 12:57pm whiterosebuddy said:

if they can do this to nurses, they'll go after teachers next. Who directs what goes on in their workplace more than teachers?

In that case, this might not be a bad idea. Since the Teacher's Union is the largest union in america and responsible for awful teachers being tenured and remaining in classrooms despite having questionable skills.

As far as nurses go I do not see a problem there either, since pharmacists and physicians are not unionized either.
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On July 11, 2006 - 1:32pm Bama Belle said:

This is not to say there aren't some "awful teachers" (most of whom are athletic coaches first and teachers second) out there, but the supposed army of subpar educators is as big a GOP myth as the so-called welfare queen, popping out babies for an extra $20 a day.

As to your second point, pharmacists and physicians are organized into immensly powerful bodies. The AMA's word is almost unimpeachable on certain health care matters. So I'd argue that they're actually MORE powerful then the R.N.s and Educators right now. But, even just talking about the traditional union functions, the fact is that pharmacists and physicians are true supervisors in that they don't NEED to be unionized- they've already got the power to direct their work and that of those around them (including, may I add, R.N.s).
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On July 11, 2006 - 1:09pm nnewman said:

So if unions cause bad schools, all the states like Mississippi with no bargaining rights for teachers are the best, then?

And are you seriously arguing that you have such confidence in education administrators that you assume that they would keep competent teachers and not just those who brownnose well? Tenure exists precisely because historically teachers were eliminated for political reasons quite often, not based on their teaching skills.
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On July 11, 2006 - 1:35pm Bama Belle said:

and furthermore, can one really trust education administrators and politicians with the exclusive making of educational policy. They're NOT the ones in the classroom day to day. Most teachers I know have come to HATE No Child Left Behind, which is the epitome of a top down intiative, because it simply doesn't work in the classroom- a fact the NEA mentioend before it was enacted.=============
Gutting Labor Rights for Nurses -- and Millions of Others | TPMCafe


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