Monday, July 26, 2010

NYS Nurses Association in Bitter Union Election

In August ballots go out for a partial election, by mail, of members of the Board of Directors on the New York State Nurses Association. The dominant management team is closely contested by a full opposition slate running as Nurses for a Better NYSNA. A contested election is nothing new; the opposition has run before, with a measure of success. What is unusual, this time, is the quality of campaigning. The roles of establishment and opposition seem to be reversed.

The opposition, union-oriented experienced bedside nurses, some with a long record of rank-and-file leadership, have been running a restrained, almost subdued, election campaign. They criticize the NYSNA management of behaving like authoritarian corporate officials who restrict information to "a chosen few" and base their actions "on 'policies' that neither elected leaders nor rank and file members have access to." And, in fact, NYSNA is part union and part corporation. Because it is the collective bargaining representative for some 34,000 staff nurses, it is a labor organization as defined by the LMRDA. But it is also a corporation under state law (a status which gives its Board of Directors expansive powers) and it accepts management representatives as full members.

A website that supports the current management slate has been conducting a screeching campaign that occasionally borders on hysteria. It flails out with vitriolic personal attacks on each member of the opposition slate. Out of the blue, apparently irrelevantly, it launches a personal assault against Pat Kane, who is not a candidates for any office. Kane, one of the outspoken leaders of the opposition, is actually a current member of the NYSNA Board of Directors. Although the website is obviously inspired by the management team, its sponsors remain anonymous. No one takes public responsibility for its contents.

The management team has good cause to be nervous, which surely accounts for its being thrown off balance and for the note of desperation in its propaganda.

Of the 13 members of the current NYSNA Board of Directors, four who had been elected in earlier elections support the opposition. The directors' terms of office are staggered. In this election, only six come up for reelection: vice president, secretary and four at large. Ann Bove', an opposition at-large candidate, is now an incumbent director (facing an official investigation that could lead to disciplinary charges against her, she has retrained a defense attorney).

On the eve of the election, management abruptly faced an formidable challenge from a new group: NY Nurses Coalition. Its formation was provoked by the discharge of Sonia Echevarria, a popular nursing rep, by the NYSNA CEO in April this year. The group and its website originated as a protest against the firing but soon expanded its concern to charge the NYSNA management with highhanded administration of association affairs. At first, unaware of the existence of an opposition slate, it endorsed a single independent candidate for Board of Directors. But once it learned of the earlier opposition, it endorsed its full slate. The opposition ticket is headed by Judy Sheridan Gonzalez, its candidate for vice president.


Eileen Dunn said...

Mr. Benson you hit the nail on the head. The opposition has a long history of rank and file leadership. Their leadership has lead to the weakening of NYSNA and almost it's demise into the hands of SEIU, 1199. During their leadership the org. became stale and ineffective. Since they have become"the opposition" NYSNA has passed meaningful legislation and effective contracts for their members, e.g. the EEOC ruling on physically taxing. Thanks for hitting the nail on the head.
Eileen Dunn RN

Anonymous said...

A not too dissimilar move is underway between reformers and the Board of directors of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

No big lawsuits or discipline yet though that is expected by many of the most vocal members of the reform movement. The MNA does not have management among their ranks but the current Board has assumed a stance more like a Corporate Board of Directors and has acted of late more like management, than true union leaders.

A BOD election is about to get underway with several reformers running.

Stay tuned.