After two months of Beverly nurses trying to organize a union, I joined. I saw the hospital taking action against the nurses, who were only trying to speak up about practices that were unsafe to patients and unsafe to nurses. There were a lot of unfair and dangerous practices at the hospital. Short staffing. Floating nurses to floors where they weren’t qualified. A lack of equipment. Leaky roofs and electrical wires shorting out. People got promotions even though they weren’t qualified because of favoritism.
Before organizing a union we tried everything. We went to every hospital meeting, raising our voice to say, “This needs to be corrected.” But management wasn’t listening to the nurses. People became scared to speak up because whoever did, management would hold a grudge against them. Also, we hadn’t had a raise in years, while managers were getting raises and bonuses, and our benefits were being cut. Some supervisors told us to accept it or leave.
I’ve been a nurse since 1972. I used to have the same view of unions that a lot of people do, that if you did your job well, you didn’t need a union. But now I could clearly see the inequity and injustice. I saw the nurses fighting for patient safety and our rights, while management only brought in outsiders to tell the nurses they were wrong, instead of correcting things. That changed my mind. So I joined all the nurses, united in raising our voices for our patients and our own right to practice safely.
Since we won our contract, things have improved. There’s a lot of new equipment coming to the hospital. We’re getting a normal and fair wage increase every year. Management has begun to follow safe staffing laws. They never worried about it before. But now it’s written into the contract, so they worry about putting it into practice. My message to all the nurses is: Be united, and keep working hard, and support each other. And work for our patients’ safety and our safety.