Posts Tagged ‘Labor unions’

Is it time to unionize?

Remember the dark days of the pandemic in March and April, when the true risk of caring for COVID patients started to become clear?  Remember when you could be censured by a nursing supervisor or administrator for wearing a mask in public areas lest you frighten patients or visitors?

Right around then, a third-year resident at UCLA decided to wear a mask wherever he went in the hospital, as testing wasn’t readily available yet for patients, and visitors still had full access. Someone with a clipboard stopped him and said he couldn’t wear a mask in the hallways. The resident politely responded that yes, he could. Why? Because his union representative said so. The discussion ended there.

The resident enjoyed backup that his attendings lacked because all UCLA residents are members of the Committee on Interns and Residents/SEIU, a local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). This union represents more than 17,000 trainees in six states and the District of Columbia.

As CMS threatens further pay cuts for anesthesiology services and other third-party payers are likely to follow suit, many attending anesthesiologists are asking:  Why can’t we form a union? Alternatively, why can’t the ASA function like a union and negotiate on our behalf?

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As a very new reporter for the Wall Street Journal, before I started medical school, I was sent to North Carolina to report on efforts to unionize the workers in large textile mills.  My visit took place well before the story of textile worker Crystal Lee Sutton made it into headlines; her part in the union’s work was dramatized in the movie Norma Rae.   No one could have predicted then that those huge mills would disappear, losing their market to overseas competitors.  Here’s my report, which was published on November 13, 1974, as well as an epilogue about the subsequent fates of the then-dominant American textile corporations.


Militant Mills

Textile Unions’ Fight To Organize in South Is a Tough One to Win

 KANNAPOLIS, N.C., —One evening last March, a deputy sheriff in this small, unincorporated town spotted Mrs. Robert Freeman, 50, at the side of the road, clad in her pajamas and clutching a beer can.  As the official story has it, Mrs. Freeman was drunk and was duly arrested; she was convicted of public intoxication.

Talk to her husband, though, and you’ll hear a different account.  Mr. Freeman, an organizer for the AFL-CIO Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA), says his wife merely stepped outside their home, spied a beer can on the lawn and picked it up to dispose of it, whereupon the deputy hauled her off to jail.  Mr. Freeman says she was refused permission to take a breath-analysis test.

“There’s no difference between Kannapolis and Moscow,” he declares in disgust.  “In fact, there’s probably more democracy in Moscow.”

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