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March 7, 2000

To Our Nursing Colleagues,

The National Labor Relations Board hearings are ending and you have finally earned the right to make one of the most important decisions of your life. The members of the Jefferson Hospital Nurses Association would like to share with you the reasons why we as Registered Nurses feel compelled to select collective bargaining and the PSEA as our choice in the upcoming election.

. As any staff nurse can tell you both the quantity and quality of care they are able to provide has been on a continuos downward spiral. Due directly to decisions made by the hospital management we are steadily loosing nurses though attrition, staffing cuts and the migration of the most experienced nurses to non-patient care positions. This comes at a time when only the sickest and most complex patients are being admitted and despite the fact that numerous studies have indicated there is a direct and absolute correlation between RNs providing direct patient care and better patient outcomes Unfortunately, it appears management believes that profit margins could be far greater at SHHS if only they could stop paying the providers of heath care. Frustrated by a decade of managed care, mergers and budget cuts, registered nurses nationwide are rethinking their ideas about organized labor and joining unions by the thousands. And they are using their new bargaining power to raise questions about patient care in contract talks and state legislatures. WitnessBill 394 a legislative act sponsored by the California Nurses Association mandating minimum staffing levels of staffing in all hospitals in the state of California. Members of the PSEA comprise 3% of all registered voters in Pennsylvania. We feel that the nurses of Jefferson hospital should indeed "Jump on this Band wagon".

Another important issue to consider is the honesty of SHHS has shown towards its employees. Throughout the campaign, the hospital has repeatedly stated you will abandon all of your rights as an employee if you sign a card authorizing the PSEA to represent you in the upcoming election. This was and is still false. The only reason for signing a card was to show the NLRB there was enough interest in the PSEA to pursue an election. Are you aware of anybody who has lost any rights by signing a card? It is obvious that this was only done in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent an election.

It is very disturbing when management continues to state that we will be giving up all of our rights, (as if we have any rights being at will employees), to the PSEA. They are well aware of how collective bargaining works. You, the future members of the Jefferson Hospital Nurses Association will elect representatives from each unit. After a survey is taken indicating the issues the members view as important, these representatives, with the assistance of PSEA lawyers and negotiators will bargain for a contract. Then you, the members of the Jefferson Hospital Nurses Association will vote on that contract. Can this result in worse working conditions and wages? Can this result in a strike? Certainly, if that is what you vote for. Is that a realistic expectation? I don't think so.

Management's concern regarding the additional financial burden we would face by opting for collective bargaining is also suspect. Were was their concern when the cost of our health insurance doubled while the actual benefits available decreased. Couple this with the fact that we received no raise wage increases last year and a meager 1.5 percent the before. Lets not forget the fact that an attempt was made to increase parking and the attempt to stop payment for nurses obtaining mandatory certifications such as ACLS and PALS. All this despite the fact that SHHS cleared over 13.5 million dollars in the fiscal year of 1998. And yes, we have the data to back that up.

Management has stated that there have been no cuts in patient care. We feel otherwise. The severe cut back of the IV team has forced many patients to undergo unnessacary invasive needle sticks as over burdened staff nurses attempt to become proficient in this skill. The cut backs in the all ready understaffed and under financed education department leave these nurses little time to provide the staff of Jefferson Hospital with any real educational opportunities. The decrease in on call pay to two dollars an hour has practically eliminated the availability of an on call nurse. All ready overburdened nurses are caring for sicker patients. How could you not view these issues as cuts in patient care?

How much more can you, in your role as patient advocate take. It is well documented that we are on the verge of the greatest nursing shortage ever. As the wages and benefits of the registered nurse continue to stagnate, as our frustration with the direction our profession has taken becomes evident, were will our new nurses come from. Who will be your advocate as you age?

Management has yet to offer a good argument against collective bargaining other that to say they don't feel it is in our best interest. Please show us the objective data you have used to arrive at this decision. The Jefferson Hospital Nurses Association/PSEA begs you to please research the advancements brought about via collective bargaining. We believe the only way to we will be able to make any real changes in health care is by joining together. The parent /child relationship we currently have is of no value to us. We need to take responsibility for ourselves. This is professionalism.

You will be making one of the most important decisions of you nursing career when you vote. Please don't make it out of fear or lack of knowledge.