By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief
On Thursday, May 17, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) held a special members-only meeting at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center to vote on bylaw changes that will drastically alter the future of the organization, morphing it from a professional association into a union. One of the key changes had to do with who could hold office in the organization: going forward, only bedside nurses, retirees, and “non-statutory” supervisors (i.e., those not able to hire or fire employees) would be eligible for office.
Other changes include eliminating the position of CEO and changing it to that of executive director, in order “to better reflect the union’s democratic roots and greater accountability to working nurses,” and a decision to push for nurse–patient staffing ratio legislation in the next session.
The NYSNA, which with 37,000 members, was founded in 1901 and is the oldest state nursing association in the country. Until January, when it was suspended for one year, it was the largest constituent member association of the ANA.
According to ANA documents, the NYSNA violated ANA bylaws by engaging in “dual unionism” when its newly elected board of directors replaced the CEO with Julie Pinkham, who is also the executive director of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). The MNA had disaffiliated from ANA in the past, along with the California Nurses Association, and were founding members of National Nurses United. The ANA maintains that this is a concerted effort to undermine NYSNA and, by affiliation, the ANA. The NYSNA appealed the decision, but the ANA reaffirmed the suspension in March. This also means that the member benefits of the 37,000 members are also suspended for the year.
I asked Bernie Mulligan, NYSNA’s communications director, about where he thought the organization’s relationship with ANA was heading. He said he felt it was premature to discuss the question of any future relationship and that the board would address that. The top priority for the organization now, he said, was getting nurse–patient ratio staffing legislation passed. “The members are clear, in that they overwhelmingly support this.”
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