Organizing Nurses: Interviewing Ed Bruno, National Nurses Organizing Committee
by Seth Sandronsky
Ed Bruno is the national organizing coordinator for the National Nurses Organizing Committee, a labor union founded by the California Nurses Association in 2004. Currently, the NNOC is on the ground in Texas, organizing nurses. The CNA drew national attention when it won a political victory over California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. He tried and failed to change a state law to increase the number of patients that nurses treat, due in no small part to the CNA, a union with 70,000 members, confronting the Republican governor publicly and repeatedly. The interview below with Ed Bruno was done via email.
Seth Sandronsky: What led the NNOC to organize new members in Texas?
Ed Bruno: The effort by NNOC, a national organizing committee founded and funded by the CNA, is best understood as Texas nurses joining NNOC in an effort to build organization in Texas and do their part to build a new national organization by and for RNs.
SS: Where are you organizing in Texas, and how is it proceeding in terms of recruiting new members?
EB: NNOC Texas has members in every major city in the state and in many of the smaller ones as well. Naturally we concentrate our work where the industry has concentrated hospitals and that means in the biggest cities. NNOC RNs have formed multi-hospital Metropolitan Committees in Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Committees in formation are in such cities as El Paso, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont
SS: How does CNA get its message out?
EB: RN-to-RN. We do not chase after the nurses. NNOC provides reading materials that reflect what we think is the conditions in the hospitals in regards to patient care and RN standards and working conditions. Nurses pass it from one to another. We will often help them by mailing the materials to nurse registries. RNs join individually and pay $30 a year in dues. They must take the initiative; membership is voluntary. NNOC was conceived as a national organizing committee and it still is a committee of the best, strongest, and most committed RNs.
SS: Who is most (and least) receptive to NNOC's organizing in Texas?
EB: Our focus is on acute care hospital nurses for that is the focal point for our health care system and where most RNs work. All kinds of nurses join NNOC, private and public sector, hospital and non-hospital. Much of the membership is nurses with some years of experience at the bedside.
SS: What is the main issue involved in the NNOC's Texas campaign?
EB: First and foremost is the need for organization -- both advocacy organization and union organization. Nurses know they have been silent and unorganized but vital to the operation of the hospitals and delivery of health care. So that is the first motivation. After that -- mandated staffing ratios, freedom to act as patient advocates independent of the interests of the employers, low pay, lack of retirement, and protection against retribution by hospitals for carrying out nurse duties.
SS: Where do things go from Texas for the NNOC?
EB: NNOC is actively organizing is a number of states and has membership in all 50 states. Texas is not the only rodeo.
Seth Sandronsky lives and writes in Sacramento. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.