Alternative to nurses’ union

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The main entrance to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)

After almost 26 years of nursing here in the valley, much research, and many discussions with coworkers, union reps, management and attorneys, I feel compelled to voice my opinion regarding the upcoming nurse’s union vote. Simply stated, I do not feel a union is the right solution.

Let me first acknowledge that I do not condone unsafe patient workloads or practices. This should not be tolerated nor should it be allowed to continue. Secondly, I respect the right to want to improve working conditions and be able to freely voice concerns without fear of reprisal. I also acknowledge that when voicing concerns to management, it is not wrong to expect some type of corrective action.

I believe that if we vote a union in, we might gain some collective bargaining, but we will no longer have an individual voice. Essentially, we will be paying the SEIU to be our voice and we will be subject to the desires of the SEIU. If we do not agree with them, our individual voice is lost. Remember, the SEIU union representative is the union, not we the nurses.

I would rather see us form a nursing leadership council made up of fellow nurses, all with skin in the game. This council would work directly with management solving nursing concerns. This puts us, the nurses, at the table discussing our concerns, not a union representative who does not know our business nor has skin in the game.

I believe management has gotten the message loud and clear that the nurses and other staff are not happy and want change. The new CEO has acknowledged as much and has taken ownership of that fact. I believe we owe it to our management team, to each other, and to our community to take a breath and work with him for positive change. I would ask that we give the management team one year to work with not just the nursing staff, but all staff to discuss issues directly and implement positive changes.

I also feel that talk of bringing in a union has caused a huge division amongst all staff, not just nurses. This has been at a cost to many coworker relationships and trust is now questioned among all employees. I am a firm believer in working together as one team with one goal and mission — to provide safe and quality care for our patients. We can accomplish that goal when we are united as one without the division of union representation.

Lastly, I do not want to be affiliated with any entity that uses my money to support either political party. We have enough political discord in our country and I do not feel that political pressure should be allowed to enter into our workplace. If you think that your union dues will not fund political issues, please research the SEIU and see for yourselves.

I am asking all nurses to reconsider their decision to join the union. If you take the emotion out of your decision and look at the facts, my suggestion of a nursing leadership council made up of nurses, not an out-of-state union, is a positive alternative. Remember, I am only asking for one year. If things do not change by this time in 2020, then it is time to reconsider the union decision.

— Juliann Johnson, of Kalispell, is an RN at The HealthCenter at Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

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