A labor union (aka, a trade union) is an organization of workers that is formed to protect and advocate for its members’ interests. Most often, this advocacy takes the form of collective bargaining aimed at improving employees’ wages, hours, working conditions and benefits.
At the moment, there is no single labor union that represents nurses nationwide.
Instead, a variety of unions (some of which represent workers in other industries) perform collective bargaining on behalf of RNs, LPNs, LVNs and other healthcare employees with the management of individual healthcare facilities.
Some of the most active unions representing nurses include SEIU United Healthcare East, National Nurses United, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
Historically, the most effective form of leverage that unions have with employers is the strike, though most union leaders only use this tool as a last resort because of the risk that management will hire new employees to replace striking workers.
Pros of Joining a Union
BETTER PAY AND WAGES
Better pay frequently tops the list of reasons to join a union. The median weekly earnings of union employees are 20% higher than the pay of non-union members, and some sources claim that unionized nurses earn $200-$400 more per week than non-unionized nurses.
Many non-union workers are subject to “at-will employment,” meaning they can be fired for any reason (or no reason), and have their wages and benefits cut at management’s discretion. By contrast, union contracts usually prohibit termination without cause and protect nurses’ wages and benefits. Contracts also stipulate guaranteed pay raises based on time spent on the job, so a union nurse never has to ask a manager for a raise.