The Measure of a Man

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HCA: Profit and Greed on the backs of their workforce.

This is a bulletin I recently received from the CNA showing how HCA is once again stiffing the worker while lining their own pockets and getting richer off the backs of their dedicated workforce. It is very enlightening but not surprising.

HCA Execs Getting Wealthier
Many HCA RNs are reeling from the loss of retirement security resulting from the company’s decision to eliminate their pension and transfer their earnings to a 401(k) which has seen losses of up to 40%. For some this means putting off their retirement – for others it spells financial doom. Some HCA hospitals are laying off ancillary workers, trimming the hours of part-timers and reducing use of more-expensive temporary nurses hired through agencies. Recently we told you that, in Tennessee, HCA is cutting 110 jobs and closing most functions at its Portland hospital, laying off roughly 100 headquarters staffers, and at Centennial Hospital eliminating RN raises, the night shift differential and decreasing RN holiday pay.
So what are the top administrators of HCA doing to shoulder their share of the burden? HCA tells us these cuts –and the ones to come – are absolutely necessary. But a simple review of HCA’s SEC filings reveals that a number of recent, large transactions have boosted the networth of a cadre of upper echelon HCA executives.
Leading off the movement to exercise stock options was:
Joseph N Steakley, Senior VP of Internal Audit Services who cashed in some stock options this week, walking away with $170,088 in cash. He still holds 17,027 more shares so expect to see him add a healthy chunck of change to his net worth soon.
Western Group President Samuel Hazen last month gave up 14,151 shares leaving him with a paper gain of $432,000.
Next up the line was Senior Vice President Vic Campbell who excercised 55,215 shares generating more than $800,000.
CFO Milton Johnson excercised his option to buy 87,180 shares. His net worth gain: $1.4 million.
And truly leading the pack was General Counsel Robert Waterman who acquired 1.78 million worth of shares for a paper profit of $2.2 million.
All told the group boosted its networth by roughly 4.9 million dollars.
Anyone still buying the line that we all need to sacrifice during these tough economic times? It’s very clear that those of us who are paying the price are doing so to the benefit of others.

Read the full story. This link will take you to the Nashville news paper article where the information above was sourced from.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why union check cards are the answer.

The article below is taken from the National Workrights Institute website at The article is the best arguement that I have read for changing the current election system to that of union check cards. Please read and post your comments and concerns.

It has been well known for years that the union representation election process under the National Labor Relations Act is seriously flawed and fails to reflect the desires of a majority of workers. Many scholars and activists have made proposals for reforming the NLRA election system. Others believe that the system is inherently unworkable and cannot be fixed. These individuals believe that the solution is to eliminate elections and substitute the card check system.
The first step in resolving this crucial issue is recognizing that it cannot be answered in the abstract. The controlling principle is that the decision regarding whether or not a group of workers is represented by a union is that the decision should represent the will of the majority. Whether to hold elections or use card check is not a matter of principle, but a pragmatic issue. The method used to make this decision (card check or election) should be the method which best implements the wishes of the workers.
The most serious problem with the current election system is that one side has a near monopoly of access to the voters (workers). The employer can hold unlimited meetings to put forth its arguments against the union. The union is not allowed to speak at these meetings. Neither are workers who support the union. Nor are workers allowed to stay away. Under the Act, employers are permitted to make attending these anti-union meetings a condition of employment. The union, in contrast, is not even allowed into the facility to talk to the workers.
Clearly, this is unfair. The results of a political election would never be recognized as legitimate under these circumstances. If an election based system is to be maintained, the problem of unequal access must be solved.
The captive audience problem can be solved. The NLRA could be amended to require that the union be given equal time, either at the same meeting at which the employer makes its presentation, or at a separate meeting. The rules could be changed so that the conditions of attendance (voluntary or mandatory) were the same for both. Employers would vigorously oppose such a change in the law, and it would be difficult to accomplish politically, but there is no principled reason why this change cannot be made.
This alone, however, does not solve the equal access problem. Employers do not confine their communication to formal meetings. During an organizing campaign, management communicates its message constantly. Even the most casual conversation between management and workers frequently contains a statement or question regarding the upcoming election. For the election process to be fair, the union would have to be given the opportunity for the same type of communication. This would mean giving representatives of the union unrestricted and unsupervised access to the workplace. Such a system, however, is completely unworkable. Having outsiders wandering around the facility talking to anyone they want to whenever they want would completely disrupt production. It could even be a safety hazard. Imagine outsiders, who do not know the facility, walking around a steel mill or refinery without supervision.
This represents a fatal defect in the election model. The election is not fair unless both sides have comparable access to the voters. But giving the union such access is impossible.
The other critical problem with elections is employer coercion. Literally thousands of workers are fired every year for trying to organize. This not only denies the rights of these workers, but intimidates other workers as well. Firing a handful of workers is often enough to stop an organizing campaign in its tracks. A solution to this problem must be found if the election model is to be retained.
On paper, the problem can be solved. Any behavior which is motivated by a rational expectation of gain can be deterred if the penalty is sufficiently severe and the probability of being caught is high enough. In practice, however, it may be insoluble. The economic gains to an employer by keeping its workforce non-union are substantial. Unionized workers make at least 20% more than non-union workers in comparable jobs. A large employer can save literally millions of dollars by violating the NLRA. In addition, employers have deep personal resistance to sharing power with workers. The penalty required to overcome the combined resistance of these two factors would be huge, possibly large enough to threaten the financial health of the company (and the continued existence of the workers’ jobs). Criminal penalties against offending managers would have adequate deterrent effect, but it is questionable at best that our country is prepared to take this step.
The severity of both these problems would be greatly reduced under card check. Under card check, the decision-making period would no longer be approximately seven weeks. Instead, it would be months, or even years. With essentially unlimited time to get its message across, the union’s inferior access to the workers would be far less of a problem.
An unlimited decision making period would also diminish the impact of coercion. The time and effort required of management to keep the pressure on during an organizing drive is substantial. As a practical matter, an employer simply cannot keep holding frequent captive audience meetings forever, nor can it turn every discussion with a worker into an anti-union sales pitch forever. Over time, the focus must return to producing and selling the product.
It is often claimed that card check is a one sided process in which the union “sells” workers on organizing while the employer, unaware of the campaign, is silent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing in the card check system prevents an employer from explaining its views about unions to workers as part of its regular employee communications program. Sophisticated employers do this already.
Moreover, an employer will still be able to amplify their message during an organizing campaign under card check. In virtually every company, there are some employees who are opposed to joining a union. When these employees become aware that a union is collecting cards, they will tell management. This will allow management to step up their communications during critical periods.
Even under card check, the employer continues to have the upper hand. It has easy access to the workers daily, while the union has to struggle to locate workers away from the facility. Even with a list of the workers’ home addresses (which the employer is required to provide under the Excelsior decision), communicating with workers away from the company is difficult and inefficient.
The employer also continues to have far more ability to coerce those it has not persuaded. In the absence of a union, workers are employees at will. They can be fired for any reason, fair or unfair, or for no reason at all. The employer also controls promotions, pay raises, vacation scheduling and many other decisions that seriously affect a worker and his or her family. Even if gross retaliation (such as firing the leaders of an organizing effort) can be effectively prevented, an employer retains the ability to do great harm to a worker whom it views as a negative influence. This power vastly surpasses any ability employees favoring the union may have to arm twist a few “voters” in a closely divided company.
Overall, card check is a better method to determine whether workers will be represented by a union. The employer has unfair advantages under the election model that cannot be eliminated. Under card check, however, the effect of these advantages is greatly reduced so that the ultimate decision more often reflects the desire of the workers.

Share your opinion

The post are designed to evoke conversation that leads to action. GET INVOLVED!!!, lets us know your opinion, post your comments today.
You can post your comments anonymously if you like or use any name you choose. We are not interested in knowing who you are but what you think!!

My Story

My Story

I have been a nurse for just over ten years. I earned my degree with the support of my wife and financial assistance for the GI bill. I was drawn to the profession of nursing after a brief exposure to an advanced course in field triage while serving in the army. I find the human body fascinating and am always learning. I also was attracted to the profession for all the usual reasons that bring people to the profession of nursing. I enjoy the reward of giving to my fellow man.

I believe that health care and the advocacy of safe care is the foundation of nursing that was started by our founders like Florence Nightingale. Our practice act calls for our profession to advocate for our patients and against practices that puts their safety in jeopardy.

The healthcare industry has for the last twenty plus years constructed an environment to maximize profits at the expense of patient safety and our profession. We as nurses have stood by fairly quit and allowed for this to happen.

Recently, I and others voiced concerns related to patient safety and working conditions at Summit Hospital a hospital owned by Healthcare Corporation of America. Our issues included the working of nurse with approximately six month of experience for more than twenty four hours straight. This particular nurse did volunteer to work these hours but in my opinion should not have been ask to do so. She is a great nurse for her limited experience but put her license and the safety of her patients at risk that night. The manager of the unit failed her and the patients in her charge. Study after study has shown that the error rate goes off the chart after twelve hours. I and fifteen other nurses also expressed to management our concerns over the floating policies that were sending unqualified nurses to our unit. We noted several instances were these nurse made errors that put the patient in potential jeopardy. We also expressed our concerns over ratios of 3 to 1 becoming the norm in the unit when 2 to 1 is considered the norm in intensive care across most of the country.

We submitted these concerns in writing and signed by sixteen nurses from our unit. Management responded by holding meetings with a group of employees that they chose and their representatives which included the director of HR, our unit manager and the director of nursing. The meetings at their start gave us some hope that our issues might be taken seriously and dealt with. It was soon apparent that would not be the case and these meetings quickly moved away from our issues to their issues. They would agree that their were problems but would not put any solutions into writing, stating that they needed to be able to remain flexible and made statements like we will try instead of we will.

At around this same time I was informed of an organization called the NNOC or National Nurses Organizing Committee, that was holding meetings in the Nashville area to organize nurses to advocate for patients and against many of the problems that I expressed above. I met with their organizer and felt that their movement was something that I could support. I became a member of the NNOC and began attending meetings on a regular basis. I also began placing invitations to attend meetings in the break room of my unit and speaking with interested coworkers, while on break, about the need to organize and advocate for our patients and our profession.

After a short period of time I was ask by my manager about my involvement with the NNOC and my desire to form a union at Summit Hospital. I did not deny my association and did not hide my opinion as to why I felt that organizing was needed. I also informed them that I had the right as outlined in the National Labor Relation Act. The nursing staff at Summit was then subjected to mandatory anti union meetings and letter sent to our homes and to our email accounts at work. I was required to attend meetings with the hospital attorney and informed that because I was a charge nurse I was considered management and could not associate with the NNOC. I contested that I was a member of management but submitted to their demands to end my association with the NNOC. I never attended another meeting or recruited for the cause after that meeting. I did however continue to operate a blog, , that advocated for reform of the healthcare system and employee rights to organize. I did not use computers at work for this endeavor and did not use my real name on the blog or use any other names that would tell a reader where I worked or who I worked for.

I was ultimately terminated from Summit Medical Center on June 11th, 2008 for what I was told was the operation of a blog. I was given no specifics of what about the blog was grounds for my termination despite my asking. I appealed my termination through the hospitals employment dispute resolution process, attempting to get clarification as to what about my blog was cause for my termination. The peer panel dispute process was a sham. The panel as outlined by the hospitals policy was to be made up of my peers, who were “not familiar with the problem or have a close relationship with any of the parties involved”. The panel was anything but and was made up of persons who had expressed an open hostility to my rights to organize and to freely associate with the NNOC in the past. Two of the panel members were charge nurses from the ER also under the supervision of my manager, who had terminated me. These two persons were also at the meeting with the hospitals attorney and expressed anti union sentiment. Another panel member was a person who was well aware of my personal views related to unions and the right to organize and had been present at private settings outside the hospital were I had expressed my opinions related to the issues that started all this. This puts three of the five panel members in clear violation of the policy. I then was refused the right to seek any clarification as to what about the blog was grounds for my termination despite that being the stated reason for the panel. I was not given the right to hear the reasons as stated by my manager and the director of HR.

I am writing this because I believe that my fundamental right to due process has been violated. This is a right to work state and right or wrong that gives Summit the right to do as the please when it comes to hiring and firing of employees but most people believe and Summit attempts to mislead their employees that they are fair and just when it comes to matters of employee issues.

If Summit is allowed to get away with this and is not challenged then patients are at risk. Health care workers need to be free to advocate for safety for their patients and if they are scared into submission then patients will suffer.

Join me in fighting for our rights to free association and to advocate for our patients as our practice act requires. Support the employee free choice act, and send a message to Summit and other corporate bullies that feel you are entitled to the rights they give you and nothing more.
Also visit sited like Leap for Safety and support petitions to mandate stronger legislation that will ensure a safer environment. Visit to get involved.

I truly believe that our healthcare system is in dire trouble and we as nurses have a responsibility to get involved. Please join the fight. Your family may one day depend on what we do today.

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