Patient Safety Starts with Nurses’ Collective Advocacy

By Barbara Brady

Barb Brady
Barb Brady
MNA Communications Specialist

MNA Communications Specialist


Union membership empowers MNA nurses to be strong advocates for patients. Nurses know they have rights and a collective voice to speak up for quality patient care. MNA contracts ensure that nurses have a voice in the workplace. Nurses negotiate a fair return for their hard work. Nurses and many other workers have the freedom to join together in unions and work for common causes. However, a case before the U.S. Supreme Court could take away many of those rights, starting with public-sector union members.

Janus v AFSCME Council 31 challenges the right of public sector unions to require all employees who receive the benefits of union representation to pay the cost of that representation or “fair share fees.” Corporations and extremists want to weaken unions by bringing this case forward. They hope that this ruling will take away unions’ rights to ask people to pay for the rights and benefits that a union contract ensures. These groups want to undermine unions so they can continue to rig the system against working people. States surrounding Minnesota already have laws like this in place, so-called “Right to Work.”

If the court rules against working families, public-sector union members would lose their ability to speak up for their co-workers, families, and communities. The impact would be far-reaching and painful. MNA represents a large number of nurses who work in public hospitals, counties, and the state. They would be the first to face the impact of Janus, but the rich and powerful will next target private-sector unions.

Here’s how the ruling could affect MNA nurses and patients, starting with our public-sector nurses:

  • Without a strong union and contract, employers could unilaterally impose staffing, compensation, and other cuts that eliminate all the protections for patients that nurses fought for over many years;
  • Nurses would no longer be able to speak up for patients without fear of retaliation;
  • There would be no one to stop hospitals from putting profits over patients. Nurses now are the ones who speak up about the effects of corporatizing healthcare to make sure hospitals can’t make decisions that change patient care in the name of the bottom line;
  • Public health would be endangered. Unions are the ones insisting on policies and programs that benefit all, not just the rich. Just look at what happened to the states surrounding Minnesota that imposed Right to Work laws for a preview of what could happen to Minnesota: Household incomes are now significantly below Minnesota’s, more people are uninsured; life expectancy is lower, and infant mortality rates are higher.

Unions are working to fight this case and Right to Work measures in Minnesota and throughout the U.S. MNA is working with a coalition of Minnesota unions joining forces to oppose Janus and Right to Work.  The Public Sector Union Alliance (PSUA) meets regularly to develop strategies and joint actions in the face of the Janus case.

More than 1,000 MNA nurses, other union members, and allies rallied at the Capitol Rotunda on Feb. 24 to stand up for workers’ freedom to create strong unions. The “Working People’s Day of Action” featured union members telling their stories about the value of unions. It was part of a national day of action in cities across the country. Watch for more actions in the coming months.

PSUA is sponsoring a digital ad campaign featuring union members talking about the value of belonging to unions, including MNA nurse Kellie Quesada from Mankato. Look for the “Kellie and Maureen” link under “Stories” on the Better Together website. And take a look at the other videos too.

MNA is also working on plans to deal with the outcome of the case and its impact on public-sector nurses.

The court is expected to issue its ruling by the end of June.  Be ready to act to stand up for the freedom to come together in unions.