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UFT.org Home > News > New York Teacher > News stories > As union members, ‘you can make a difference’
Federation of Nurses/UFT Professional Issues Conference
As union members, ‘you can make a difference’
Giving nurses a voice in decisions that affect patient care was a major theme at the 2017 Professional Issues Conference of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, held on Nov. 17 and 18.
As an individual without a union behind you, there is no avenue for making changes to improve patient care, UFT Vice President for Non-DOE Members Anne Goldman, the leader of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, told the 250 hospital and school nurses gathered at the Westin New York Grand Central Hotel in her welcoming remarks.
Goldman recalled her early days as a nurse, excited to be learning new skills and assuming the hospital would want to hear her opinions. Instead, she found outrageous problems, including nonworking equipment, and indifference from management to her suggestions. “I did not have the ability to have an impact as one person,” she said. “So I did something about it — I did some research and I chose this union, knowing that the UFT is the most powerful union in New York City.”
She urged the nurses to be involved in the union. As union members, she said, they can make a difference in their work life and the quality of patient care they deliver and they can take a stand against the “assembly line of productivity” and “thin veneer of civilization” that characterize many hospital settings.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, in his keynote address, said it wasn’t a coincidence that patient scores in health care facilities represented by the UFT are among the highest in the state.
Mulgrew predicted upcoming contract negotiations for Federation of Nurses/UFT bargaining units will be tough. “The other side will be piling on the lawyers,” he warned. “But we control our own fate, we are here together and we are not going to back down at the bargaining table or on the streets.”
Jonathan Fickes Mulgrew praised Federation of Nurses/UFT members who used their vacation time to save lives after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. He updated nurses on the AFT’s latest relief effort, Operation Agua, which has provided more than 100,000 water purifiers to families in Puerto Rico who still lack access to clean water.
The two-day conference offered nine different workshop choices on a variety of topics including the nurse and the law, the opioid crisis, social media for nurses, violence in the workplace and stroke trends, treatment and care.
At a panel discussion on the politics of health care issues, UFT Political Director Paul Egan made a strong case for the importance of voting. “If you want to know why your taxes are going to go up while corporations making billions of dollars will pay less, it’s because not enough people vote,” he said.
John Green, a legislative representative from the New York State United Teachers, the UFT’s state affiliate, told the nurses nothing can take the place of their participation in nurse lobby day in Albany on May 8. “Your presence matters,” he said.
Debbie Ortiz, a nurse at NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn, said she has been attending the Professional Issues Conference every year for all of her 26 years on the job. “I love it,” she said. “This conference is the heart of our union.”
In addition to the camaraderie, she said, “the union has our back — I’ve seen it make lots of improvements.”
At the other end of the spectrum was Kumar Ramlakhan, a fellow nurse at NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn, who was attending the conference for the first time “to network, learn from the workshops and enjoy the day.”
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