How Unions Work
At RMC, we value the trusted relationship we have with you, and we want to continue working together directly to fulfill our mission. To understand our position on unions, it is helpful to understand what a union is, and what a union is not.
What is a union?
A union is a business. It is not a club, a professional nursing association, or a social organization. Unions represent employees in dealings with employers. In return, unions charge fees – commonly called “dues” – which are usually monthly deductions taken directly from employee paychecks.
Today, less than 7% of employees working in the private sector belong to a union. But, like any business, unions need revenue in order to stay in business; and union revenue comes from the dues paid by union members. Simply put, unions need new members to survive and stay in business.
What is collective bargaining?
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation between an employer and a group of employees (in this case, a union) aimed at coming to an agreement to regulate salaries, working conditions, benefits, and other aspects of compensation and/or rights for workers.
The process of collective bargaining, in which employees elect a union to represent them in adversarial negotiations with management, is often a conflict-oriented process. During bargaining, the union can make demands which management is then free to accept, modify, or reject completely.
Under collective bargaining, a small group of union representatives and nurses would speak for all RMC nurses, regardless of department, unit, specialty, etc., meaning not every voice will be heard.
What Unions Can and Cannot Do
A union has no independent power or authority to change employees’ terms and conditions of employment. In fact, when employees elect to unionize, the only thing the union “wins” is the right to ask management to provide the things the union promised to the employees (e.g. more pay, more benefits, more staffing, etc.)
During collective bargaining, management is required to consider the union’s demands in good faith; but the law permits management to say “no” and decide for themselves what the hospital is willing to agree to. Ultimately, even when a union is elected, management retains the right to manage the hospital.
In sum, the main power unions have is power over their own members. For example, unions can do the following:
- Collect dues, fees, fines, and assessments from their members
- Negotiate and make proposals
- Refuse to act on an employee’s grievance
- Represent all employees, including those who voted against the union
- Require employees to go on strike
- Discipline, issue penalties, and/or fine members who violate union rules (i.e. the union’s constitution and by-laws)
Again, a union has no power or authority to do any of the following:
- Guarantee a union contract
- Guarantee higher wages
- Guarantee better benefits
- Guarantee hours
- Guarantee employment
- Provide more staff (i.e., nurses, CNAs, etc.)
- Prevent layoffs
- Prevent termination for just cause
- Set job standards
- Fire or transfer managers
Get the Facts and Don’t Sign Anything Unless You are Sure
The union’s organizers work hard to make unionization and collective bargaining sound simple and appealing. For example, organizers often promise that unionization will result in “more” (i.e., pay, benefits, staffing, etc.); but these are only promises – not guarantees.
We feel strongly that unionization is not in the best interest of RMC nurses, our patients, or our hospital. This is why we encourage you to learn all the facts about the union before making any decisions, and – importantly – we encourage you to not sign anything in support of the union unless you are absolutely sure of what you are signing.