NEW YORK NURSE: March/April 2012
RNs at work
Leadership advice for new delegates
Q. I’ve just accepted a position as a delegate for my NYSNA local bargaining unit. I’ve never done this sort of work before, but I want to do the best job I can to help my union. Do you have any leadership advice for me?
A. First of all, thank you for being a delegate.
Delegates like you educate members’ about their rights, listen to their problems, and help them find solutions.
It’s not always easy — and you’re not going to solve every problem.
We asked other delegates for tips on doing your best. Here’s what they had to say:
- Collect members’ cell numbers and e-mails so you can get in touch with members when you need to.
- Try new ways of reaching your members like floor meetings and walk-throughs on the night shift.
- Read your contract. It’s no page-turner. But you have to know what management can and can’t do — and what your time limits are for filing a grievance.
- Introduce yourself to new nurses. Take a few minutes and explain to them why the union is important and what to do if they have a problem. Face-to-face contact is key to good union work.
- Pick your battles. Try to develop a working relationship with your supervisors—especially the ones with a bad attitude. You’ll get better results if you don’t turn every problem into a formal grievance.
- Don’t be a Lone Ranger. If you’re the only one standing up for the union, you won’t get anywhere. Ask members to help doing things they’re good at—and don’t forget to say “thank you.”
- Get tools to succeed. Attend NYSNA workshops on effective grievance handling, addressing staffing issues, and health and safety.
- Take care of yourself. Building a better NYSNA is a marathon, not a sprint. The best way to avoid burnout is to recruit your most reliable colleagues to be delegates themselves.
The NYSNA EGW Program receives many inquiries each month from members who have problems in their workplaces. If you have a question about labor relations at your facility, contact your NYSNA nursing representative. If you have a question you think should be featured in this column, send it to: RNs at Work, NYSNA, 120 Wall Street, 23rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10005.