Nurses at Illinois Hospital Vote To Join California Nurses Association; Move Raises Questions About Possible CNA National Aspirations
The California Nurses Association on Friday gained its first group of members outside the state, defeating the Illinois Nurses Association in a vote to represent nurses at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, the Sacramento Bee reports. CNA's win in Illinois and trips to other states by CNA officials have raised concerns that the union is working to become a national organization and has contributed to a "vigorous, contentious debate over the political agenda of health care unions" and whether they should be permitted to "raid" one another's members, according to the Bee.
CNA organizers say they are working to "improve the profession though political activism," not recruit members nationwide, the Bee reports.
Bonnie Castillo, an organizer for CNA, said, "Patient advocacy is something nurses across the country can relate to," adding, "Since the staffing law passed in California, more and more nurses from all over have been calling us and asking for help getting the same protection for patients in their states."
CNA spokesperson Chuck Idelson said, "California is not an island. We also have to press for changes nationally."
However, Jan Emerson -- spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, which opposes the California nurse staffing law -- said, "CNA has an agenda that has nothing to do with patient care in California and everything to do with creating a national nurses labor organization."
Carol Feuss -- director of communications for the Michigan Nurses Association, which supports a nurse staffing law pending in the state Legislature -- said that CNA had made unsolicited trips to Michigan to talk to MNA members about the California staffing law. "Workplace issues in general -- and staffing in particular -- is a major concern for nurses across the country," Feuss said, adding, "Why are they coming here and targeting nurses who are already organized?"
CNA in February offered Detroit nurses membership in the National Nurses Organizing Committee, a political advocacy group started by CNA.
John Karebian, an executive in charge of labor relations for the Michigan nurses, wrote on the Michigan union's Web site in response to the meetings, "It's time for CNA to end its charade as a national union."
Deborah Hackman, chief executive of the Georgia Nurses Association, in the same month called CNA "the California interlopers" in a posting on GNA's Web site, referring to efforts to enroll Georgia nurses in the NNOC.
CNA also organized a vote in Hawaii asking nurses to terminate their membership with the American Nurses Association, according to Joan Craft, vice president of the Hawaii Nurses Association. Nurses in Hawaii voted to retain their affiliation with ANA.
Craft said, "I think if they want a national organization they should go form one by starting with the two million nurses who are not organized" (Osterman/Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 5/17).