Illinois Health and Hospital Association

Union Push for Ratio Legislation Fails: What Hospital Leaders Should Do Now

By | Uncategorized

July 8, 2019

On May 31 2019, the Illinois General Assembly ended their legislative session in Springfield without seeing passage of House and Senate bills calling for mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.  Illinois lawmakers, instead, focused their attention on passing legislation intended to boost the State’s much-needed revenue.  

Unfortunately, we have likely not seen the last of organized labor’s push for legislation to mandate fixed, unit-specific nurse-to-patient ratios in Illinois hospitals.  In fact, the current make up and direction of the Illinois General Assembly virtually ensures these legislative efforts will resurface when the General Assembly reconvenes in October 2019 and carrying through to future legislative sessions.   

Unions are Using Legislative Efforts to Target Illinois Nurses for Organizing
Of course, the two labor unions in Illinois that represent RNs (Illinois Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United) support this staffing legislation and are working overtime to use their advocacy for the proposed new laws to attract and target registered nurses across the State (and especially in the greater Chicago area).  For example, in recent months, hospitals in Chicago’s south suburban region have reported trespassing by union organizers who attempt to visit patient care units to engage RNs directly in discussions about union advocacy (these visits have, predominately, been reported on night shifts and weekends).  

Organizers intentionally choose nights and weekend shifts for these visits because, in hospitals across Illinois, nursing leadership on these shifts is typically limited to Charge Nurses or House Supervisors who may lack the supervisory authority, ability and/or motivation to properly confront union organizers and enforce the hospital’s No Solicitation policy. 

Hospitals Should Boost Leadership Presence, Awareness and Skill
There are lots of good reasons for administrators to increase leadership presence on nights and weekends. For example, beyond consistent policy enforcement, strong and effective leadership leads to improved employee engagement.  To ensure your leaders have the ability to enforce hospital polices, and the skill and confidence to discuss Illinois’ proposed staffing legislation, we recommend the following actions:  

  • Review and revise job descriptions (and actual job duties) of night/off-shift leaders (e.g., permanent Charge Nurses, House Supervisors, etc.) to ensure leaders in these roles have “statutory supervisory authority” under the law and are equipped to enforce hospital policies;
  • Provide nursing leaders with refreshed training on union awareness, including training and education about Illinois’ proposed staffing legislation and research findings from California’s experience; and,
  • Implement purposeful leader rounding to increase interaction between leaders and staff, to advance understanding of organizational challenges/accomplishments and to facilitate rapid response to immediate issues of concern. 

Chessboard can support your organization in preparing leaders with the skills and confidence to effectively deal with the current climate of increased union organizing and union advocacy efforts.  Feel free to call or email us to learn more.