WASHINGTON — Nurses from eight AFL-CIO unions are banding together in an effort to increase their political and organizing strength, leaders announced Thursday.
The move could foreshadow more coalitions within industries as organized labor attempts to regain clout.
About 200,000 nurses, calling themselves RNs Working Together, are bidding to become the first union members to form such a group -- called an industry coordinating committee -- within the AFL-CIO. The federation's executive council will vote on recognizing the nurses' group during its winter meeting in San Diego next week.
"This is valuable because nurses are represented all over the country by many different unions. There's so much we need to do collectively that we're doing individually," said Kathy Sackman, president of the United Nurses Assn. of California. "This gives us a more powerful voice, gives us more clout."
On a separate front, leaders of the independent National Education Assn., with 2.7 million members, and the AFL-CIO are discussing an arrangement that would allow local affiliates to join the labor federation, officials confirmed. The education association would remain separate from the AFL-CIO at the national level, but local unions could apply for membership in central labor councils.
The nurses' alliance announced Thursday is being formed to deal with workplace issues such as staffing levels and patient care quality but also to prepare for a possible decision by the National Labor Relations Board that union nurses fear.
The board is considering whether nurses who occasionally oversee others or are in charge of nursing units are technically supervisors -- a ruling that could apply to many nurses currently covered by their union. Such a ruling could lead to employers challenging whether such nurses should be in the union.
The eight unions in the nurses' alliance are United American Nurses; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Teachers; the Communications Workers of America; the American Federation of Government Employees; United Steelworkers; the Office and Professional Employees International Union and the United Auto Workers.