What to Expect from McLean
When our Research Assistant colleagues held their vote to unionize earlier this year, hospital leadership held meetings and sent out emails providing specious arguments against unionization. Now, the hospital has turned to $400/hour professional union avoidance consultants (read: union busters) to dissuade RNs, MHSs, and CRCs from asserting their right to organize through "Know Your Rights" classes. What these really are are captive audience meetings, mandatory meetings in which employees are subject to anti-union misinformation. Don't be fooled - the people running these meetings are not neutral parties who just want you to know your rights, they make their living helping companies bust union organization efforts.
Now that there's going to be a union election, you should expect McLean to step up their union-busting. That means more meetings with 'HR consultants,' more staff meetings taken up by anti-union propaganda, and less time to care for your patients. Be prepared for what they might say during these meetings, and make sure your coworkers know what to expect too:
Claim #1: The union can ‘force’ us to strike, and this would be bad for patients.
Fact: The union cannot force us to go on strike. Unlike our employer, we are not interested in forcing anyone to do anything they don’t want to! Legally, a strike can only be authorized if the union and the hospital reach an impasse in negotiations. Striking is a last resort for unions when management refuses to negotiate in good faith. Even still, a majority of members of the bargaining unit would need to vote ‘yes’ in order for the union to issue a strike warning. Furthermore, once a union is formed, if a majority of staff are opposed to striking, we can include a no lockout/no strike clause in our contract. Remember that THE UNION IS US--the MHS’s, RNs, and CRCs of McLean--and WE decide what course we will take in negotiating for better pay and working conditions.
Claim #2: AFSCME has authorized countless strikes in recent years.
Fact: AFSCME has not authorized a single strike in Massachusetts in over 15 years. The strikes they are discussing in California and Pennsylvania were the actions of individual AFSCME affiliated local unions. There are multitudes of local unions affiliated with AFSCME, and the majority are enjoying the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement, not striking. There are numerous tools at our disposal to use before a strike, such as informational picketing during off work hours and filing unfair labor practice complaints that would put pressure on McLean without disrupting our work.
Claim #3: The union is a business and they only want your money.
Fact: By the same logic, the hospital is only a business and they only want to collect money from patients and insurance. They are not concerned with the quality of patient care or providing safe and fair working conditions for staff.
Fact: Union dues support union members. Any changes in dues would be decided upon democratically based on the needs of our organization. Our dues would pay for attorneys, contract negotiators, elected officers, and representatives who work diligently towards improving the workplace and negotiating for fair pay and benefits. Our dues to AFSCME would be:
Full Time (40 hours per week): $42.25/month ($9.75/week)
Part time (32-16 hours per week): $31.65/month ($7.30/week)
12 hours or less per week: $21.40/month ($4.94/week)
Fact: We are dedicated to negotiating for higher pay which will more than compensate for the cost of dues, in addition to all the other benefits of a union contract and representation. If we win even $1.00 more per hour, dues would be more than covered.
Claim #4: It can take months to achieve a contract, and you will be paying dues the whole time. If you vote for a union, you will be “stuck with the bill.”
Fact: Nobody will pay a penny in dues until a contract is signed and ratified by members of the union. The negotiation process would only be drawn out if McLean refuses to negotiate in good faith.
Claim #5: The union cannot guarantee you any improvements. Things could get worse.
Fact: Things could get worse at any time without a union negotiating on our behalf. We are sure you all remember when the hospital took our sick time away--it wasn’t that long ago. The hospital can make changes like this at any time. When we negotiate for better pay, benefits and working conditions, we will negotiate based on what we already have. In other words, our current conditions of employment are only a “jumping off point” for negotiations. We would never agree to a contract where we would be making less money (even after dues!), getting less sick time, etc.
Fact: AFSCME represents Mental Health Workers and Nurses that work in MA state hospitals. In their contract for FY2021-2023, they won thousands of dollars in COVID pay for employees, secured guaranteed raises, and addressed recruitment and retention issues:
1.5% of annual salary or $1,000 (whichever is greater) COVID Recognition Payment for all employees
Additional COVID Hazardous Duty Payment: $2,000 for full-time employees directed to work in person and $1,000 for part-time employees directed to work in person
6.5% pay increase over 3 years
Including retroactive pay from the date of the previous contract’s expiration to the date of the current contract’s ratification
On average, members received $4,000 in COVID pay and retroactive payments
They were also able to negotiate for a Class and Compensation study to help with recruitment and retention issues and ensure workers are being paid fairly.
Claim #6: If we unionize and the hospital has to pay us more, they will have to lay people off in order to afford our increased wages.
Fact: Because of the recent staffing crisis (read: people leaving for jobs with better pay, better benefits and safer conditions), the hospital cannot afford to lose any more staff. With our current numbers, the hospital has had to close beds in several units, for weeks at a time. One closed bed for one night costs the hospital several thousand dollars. It is unrealistic to think that they will suddenly let go of existing staff--it costs them a lot more money to keep beds closed due to poor staffing.
Claim #7: The research assistants unionized, and they have not once sat down with management for negotiations.
Fact: This is false. The research assistants successfully unionized on June 8th and have been meeting with management since they had their first official bargaining session on September 27th. It is highly inappropriate for these consultants to comment on the ongoing negotiations between the McLean Research Assistants Union and MGB administration in this context. We support our RA colleagues in their fight for fair pay and benefits.
Fact: Since the RAs voted to unionize, MHS/CRC base pay has increased by 40%, the Social Workers and RNs have received raises, and MGB has implemented (small) system-wide bonuses. We are already benefiting from the unionization effort at McLean, and we haven’t even filed for an election yet! We will continue pushing forward with our efforts in a strong and united manner.
Claim #8: The union isn’t responsible for staffing and it cannot protect you from mandatory overtime, the staffing problems are due to the labor shortage.
Fact: Per Massachusetts general law, Part I, Title XVI, Chapter 111, Section 226, “a hospital shall not require a nurse to work mandatory overtime except in the case of an emergency situation where the safety of the patient requires its use and when there is no reasonable alternative.” [...] “Mandatory overtime shall not be used as a practice for providing appropriate staffing for the level of patient care required.” A union can protect our rights as Massachusetts healthcare workers and prevent the hospital from forcing mandatory overtime without adequate compensation and with the threat of termination for refusal.
Fact: The current labor shortage is not caused by a lack of workers, but a lack of adequate pay and safe conditions. In other words, there is a lack of people willing to be exploited by large hospital corporations. If we are able to negotiate for better pay and working conditions, more people will want to work at McLean. This is simple economics.
Claim #9: The hospital already treats us well. There have been a slew of raises and bonuses recently.
Fact: The recent raises and bonuses are too little, too late, not to mention the confusion and lack of transparency around the amount of each employee's raise. Bonuses are one-time, taxed payments---not long-term wage increases that will make staffing more sustainable. During the pandemic McLean paused raises, stopped matching contributions to retirement accounts, slashed annual bonuses, reduced sick time, and denied hazard pay to clinical staff that continued to work on campus with minimal protections against the COVID-19 virus. The most recent raise for RN’s coincided with a unionization effort at MGH. The recent $3/hour raise for MHS and CRCs came shortly after the RA’s unionized. The additional “market adjustment” that MHS and CRCs received, in the range of $0.75 to $1/hour, came shortly after the hospital announced to AFSCME that they were aware of the effort to unionize clinical staff. The MGB wide bonus in November was announced right before the mandatory “know your rights” meetings were announced, and the bonus has been brought up over and over again in the meetings as an attempt to show that the hospital is doing something good for its staff. Finally, the most recent raises showed how confusing things can get when a mysterious algorithm decides your raise, rather than an agreed up wage and raise scale.
The recent raises and bonuses are pennies to MGB administration, and there is no limit to the amount of money and resources the hospital will spend now, to convince staff that things are okay and avoid having to treat them fairly in the long term. MGB leadership will do anything in their power to protect their million dollar bonuses and keep labor costs low.
Claim #10: You will have to take an “oath to the union.”
Fact: This is completely false. You do not need to take an oath to be a part of the union. Elected union officers (president, secretary, treasurer, and stewards) make a pledge to conduct themselves “faithfully and with honor” to “gain and defend the best possible working standards through contracts and legislation.” We think this is a reasonable promise to ask of those who we elect to represent us. You can find the full text of the AFSCME Obligation of an Officer here: Appendix B - Obligation of an Officer