Editors' Note: There was a major strike by nurses and allied healthcare workers lasting some 6 weeks at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia that ended April 2010 when this article was first published. Several years have now passed, but the issued remain unchanged.
A major open ended strike is being contemplated at the Stanford University Hospitals in California, and there is a strong possibility of 12,000 nurses going on strike at various hospitals in the Minneapolis/St Paul area of Minnesota. This would be the largest strike by nurses in the US ever. The previous largest strike was also in Minneapolis/St Paul in 1984.
These work actions have generated considerable curiosity on the part of travelers as to why a strike and what it might be like to work a strike. Because of this curiosity, PanTravelers has posted this comprehensive article to help address these questions. The article is generally neutral about strikes and unions, posting arguments from both sides of this often controversial subject. As such, members may be unclear about our editorial position on working strikes. Here it is: Travelers should not work strikes.
Doing so undercuts our fellow professionals. Their issues for taking extreme action and loss of pay are local are we cannot double guess their rationales from a distant perspective. Certainly from a historical perspective, unions have improved working conditions so much, that the gains of the early pioneers have been incorporated into legal protections we take for granted now and would be loathe to lose. Child labor laws, 40 hour weeks, overtime and minimum wage and worker safety laws are some of the gains that unions fought for. Many of the issues that healthcare unions are fighting for today are directly related to patient safety and outcomes. Staffing ratios and mandatory overtime rules impact patient care directly. Even simple pay raises helps to increase staffing, and influences career choices on college bound students.
A minor yet pertinent question, are strike workers travelers? We say no. Travelers take time limited contracts to help staff with their workload and relieve their burden. Strike workers work against the goals of staff to better working conditions and patient safety.
Sure, working a strike for 7 days a week can result in an impressive weekly check. However, working steadily as a traveler will result in much more consistent annual earnings. And you won't be undermining your professional peers, instead you will be supporting them.
As a final thought, this well written message by one of our members was recently posted on a traveler forum and illustrates that even thoughtful people may have conflicting feelings about strike nursing. Excerpted here with permission:
I think it's ultimately up to you. Some people say you're doing the striking nurses a favor, because the hospitals are having to pay mega bucks to get you there. Others say nope, and that's just something people say to make themselves feel better about it.
My feeling is that you come first, and others come second. If you're doing ok, and aren't desperate, then you should probably not work the strike. If you're behind on your bills and can't provide for your family, and you have an opportunity to make some good money for a short amount of time (and don't know when you'll be able to get work again), I say you probably should work the strike.
Plus, money talks. I think very few would work a strike for $25/hr. Many start considering it for $50/hr. $75/hr would see a lot less people objecting. You'll basically be working against fellow nurses. How much is that worth to you, in your current position?
Also, read up on strike conditions. Some sound not too bad, others sound downright scary. Think shared motel rooms and being bussed back and forth. No life outside work. Might not be that bad, but definitely look into it and know what you're getting into.