The following letter to the editor by NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi appeared in the Schenectady Gazette Thursday, May 3, 2007.
To the editor:
National Nurses Week begins May 6 and the best way to honor these vital health care professionals is to support the RESPECT Act – a bill now pending in Congress that would protect the collective bargaining rights of nurses and other workers in a wide range of occupations.
The RESPECT Act (Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradesworkers) was introduced in response to several National Labor Relations Board decisions that radically broadened the interpretation of the term "supervisor" to include employees with only minor supervisory duties. This change denies union protection to millions of nurses, as well as workers in the building trades and manufacturing.
NLRB decisions cannot be appealed; therefore, a legislative solution is urgently needed. The RESPECT Act would recognize the original intent of Congress by distinguishing between "minor supervisory employees," whom Congress clearly intended to protect, and "supervisors vested with genuine management prerogatives."
Without union protection, many nurses would face retaliation from unscrupulous employers as they champion for improved patient care. Union safeguards allow nurses to advocate for adequate nurse-to-patient ratios, sufficient supplies, the end to mandatory overtime and an overall safe environment for patients and care providers. These issues will also be the focus of a Health Care Lobby Day and rally in which New York State United Teachers will participate on May 22 at the state Capitol.
By supporting and urging federal lawmakers to pass the RESPECT Act, we are truly giving nurses the "respect" they deserve and helping them give their patients the best care possible.
Richard C. Iannuzzi
New York State United Teachers