I am a registered nurse
at Genesys hospital near Flint,
where the RNs and licensed practical nurses who do direct patient care are
represented by the Teamsters. I believe the union-fostered attitude at our
hospital works against teamwork. While Genesys is a great place to work, it
would be even better if the union acted more professionally.
In a hospital, our job
is to provide health care to patients or provide support for those who directly
give care. But the Teamsters promote an attitude where many employees are not
willing to do what they think is "someone else's job." Some nurses will not
clean a room or bed so a new patient can be admitted, while others will not
transport patients from room to room. They are capable and qualified to do
these tasks, but they will not because "it's the housekeeper's job," or "the
transporter's job." Occasionally nurses will choose to sit and wait, often
doing nothing, delaying treatment for patients and increasing emergency room
Our in-house nurse
supervisors are RNs and have worked in direct patient care themselves prior to
going into management. Some have pitched in during busy times and started
intravenous lines or administered medications. They are licensed and qualified
for these tasks. Patients and family members see this as professionalism and
customer service. The union, however, sees this as a job threat and has filed
grievances against supervisors, claiming they are doing the work of bargaining
unit nurses. The union in effect says, "Your patients are not my problem."
The union also
emphasizes seniority in job assignments, which again takes the emphasis away
from patient care. This process can lead to "chain bumping" as nurses with more
seniority can bump others out of jobs, which continues down the pecking order and
takes nurses out of roles they know well and enjoy.
Unions can also make it
difficult to institute needed changes in the workplace. A union will demand
that its input and approval be obtained on any change that could even remotely
be construed as affecting bargaining unit members. In short, the union finds
some way of interfering with almost any change, which ties management's hands.
It seems the union, rather than the administration, ends up running the
publicity is a popular tactic used by unions like the Teamsters to attack
employers while seeking public sympathy. The union at my hospital has gone to
local news media and paid for at least one huge billboard to spread accusations
against the hospital where I work (see image).
Labor unions can be beneficial
when they act professionally, positively and responsibly on behalf of those
they represent. Problems arise, however, when they act irresponsibly, stir up
resentment and negativity, and interfere where they should not. In my
experience, the Teamsters have done just that at Genesys.
These problems would
arise less frequently in Michigan
if we had a right-to-work
law. Both employers and employees should understand that a right-to-work
law does not prohibit the right of workers to join a union, nor does it mean
unions cannot collectively bargain with employers. Workers can still unionize, but
since they would no longer have to involuntarily support unions, the union
leadership would have to become more accountable to members and employers, or
risk membership decline, a reduced cash flow and diminished power. Greater
accountability to their members will make unions less prone to bullying and
more likely to be a positive influence in the workplace. This would make my
unionized hospital a more pleasant place to work and could also draw more
employers back to our state.
Mark Bollwitt is a registered nurse
at Genesys Hospital, where he works in the
emergency room. The Mackinac Center is a research and educational institute
headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly
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