National Nurses United (NNU) is the largest nurses organization in the U.S. They have been front runners in promoting safe hospital practices for consumers, especially through efforts to end unsafe nursing staffing levels — an all too common hospital practice in American hospitals. This month, NNU was certified as the union for registered nurses at Affinity Hospital in Massillon, Ohio. The courageous Affinity nurses became certified as a union after a brief organizing campaign and a democratic election among all of the hospital’s registered nurses.
There are very few nurses’ unions in Ohio. Further, the American Nurses Association and the Ohio Nurses Association, which purport to represent nurses’ interests, are viewed by many as submissive patsies to the Ohio Hospital Association that have done little to advocate for nurses’ rights or safe hospital practices. So, this victory by NNU is big step in the right direction for patient safety in Ohio.
Because hospitals do not bill for services rendered by nurses, nurses are often viewed by hospital administrations as a loss leader. However, nursing care is the very reason why hospitals exist. Nurses are patient advocates and the “eyes and ears” of physicians who are often not even present at the hospital. Thus, when administrators cut nursing staff to unsafe levels, or replace registered nurses with lesser skilled personnel, patient safety is put at risk. Studies show that everything from length of stay to infection rates are worse when unsafe staffing levels exist.
What is remarkable about NNU is that rather than focusing on wages and benefits, like most unions, NNU focuses on patient safety. The Affinity nurses nonetheless faced stiff opposition from the huge for-profit corporation that owns Affinity. This opposition included classic union-busting techniques by the National Right to Work Committee which is viewed by organized labor as a cynical front organization for anti-union corporations.
At Mishkind Kulwicki Law, we support organizations that support patient safety. For that, we congratulate the courageous and dedicated Affinity nurses and welcome NNU to Ohio. This is a good thing for consumers. May you both prosper together!!