Q: Are there unions for clinical engineering? I have heard reports that management holds all the cards and are unwilling to negotiate or find middle ground. Policies are considered “optional” and enforced only when it benefits management. Actions are retaliatory but impossible to prove. HR does nothing to mediate the situations, thus nothing to do but show up and get through the day. What options are there?
A: The subject matter of the post fills me with emotion, not positive emotion.
In my career I have had the opportunity to work in and witness the kind of work environment this person is suggesting as a solution. The solution mentioned has tremendous negative impact on patient care, coworker morale, productivity, and personal career success. There is nothing positive that I have witnessed from the kind of work environment suggested. This is not anecdotal, this is fact. Obviously, without understanding this person’s exact situation it is hard to offer a solution, but I will make a few comments. The most wonderful thing is that this person lives, I assume, in the Unites States of America, and so far we still enjoy quite a bit of freedom. We still have the opportunity to pick and choose our employers. This person is not stuck at this particular employer. This employer does not owe this person anything. This person sounds as if a merit-based system of employment is not suitable. If this person is a top performer, then this person would never have an issue with salary, respect, advancement, etc … There apears to be a “victim” mentality with this person. There is pervasive “victim” mentality being promulgated among people in the U.S. It’s pollution. It’s “stinking thinking.” Be a professional. Be an adult.
A: Yes. It is part of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501in Los Angeles and Kaiser Permanente biomedical technicians are members of this local.
A: I had never worked in a union environment before becoming hired as a Biomed. Here’s a summary of my experiences:
After working here for 30 days, I was told I needed to sign the union paperwork (and start having dues taken out) otherwise I’d have to leave my job. So, I signed (under duress), opening the pipeline for a monthly flow of money from my paycheck directly to the union.
Because our small group of 5 Biomeds reported to Facilities at that time, we were in the same bargaining group as 20-plus Facilities guys. What was worse is that our union was the Operating Engineers union, for boilermakers, etc. Those guys couldn’t even spell Biomed, and had no idea what we really did. When we would try to negotiate a contract, the needs of the few (5 Biomeds) were either ignored or outvoted by the many (20+ Facilities). At this point you can understand my dislike for the union.
Later I was required to represent our Biomed shop during contract negotiations. It was very embarrassing for me to sit across the table from the people I work for and be associated with this group. I actually felt like apologizing! By this time we had a different union rep, who at first seemed to be interested in making things better, but expected us to do a lot of the work we were paying her to do. During this contract negotiation, the hospital wanted to institute an “on-call” policy (for Biomed only, not Facilities), which nobody in our shop really wanted in the first place. The hospital offered $1/hour for on-call pay. When we had a chance to talk about it, the union rep said that sounded fair and we should take it. I said no way, lady! The guys don’t want to do this in the first place, and $1/hour is an insult. We won’t do it for anything less than $3/hour. By standing my ground, we got what we asked for, instead of what the union was willing to settle for. The reps (in my experience) want to get in and out as quickly as possible, because they don’t really get paid any more for doing a good job.
Eventually some of the guys in Facilities decided that things weren’t right, and wanted to switch to a different union.
I got a call on the weekend from one of the boiler operators telling me I needed to get down to the hospital ASAP and sign a new union card “because we are currently without any representation and could be fired at any time.” I didn’t buy into the scare tactic and continued to enjoy my weekend.
We had a meeting with our hospital’s HR department, and they helped to make us aware of our options. Needless to say, the paranoia of the larger group drove us right back into a union. We were picked up by the Teamsters. We had some meetings with them before joining, and the promises of better pension plan, health benefits, etc. were just what was needed for the majority to join. I was one of the last two people to sign my card and I actually wrote “under duress” beneath my signature.
By this time, Biomed had already been reporting to IT which was a completely different chain of command, different cost center, etc. I asked the Teamsters if Biomed could be separated into a separate group, so our bargaining needs wouldn’t be diluted by 20+ others with different needs. The Teamsters rep said “of course,” but that never happened.
The unions (both Operating Engineers and Teamsters) have had a “no-strike clause” in our contracts ever since I can remember. This makes the union a toothless dog, removing any potential of being taken seriously. Not that I would ever want to strike, but we can’t do anything about paying dues, nor strike if something is going wrong at work. How does this arrangement benefit us?
Most of the wording in our contract either mirrors existing hospital policy, or simply refers to hospital policy (which could change at any time). So, we’re not really getting anything different than what non-union employees already get.
One of the things I really wanted was to have an “open shop” so employees could choose whether they wanted to be union or not. If the union was really such a great thing, the non-union guys working in the same shop would notice and do something about it. If we were to do it all over again (and wanted to remain union), we would have been better off joining the same union as the nurses, rather than the Teamsters. The nurses’ union is much stronger and actually works for their employees, rather than just taking dues and filling our ears with empty promises. The nurses’ union also includes housekeeping, respiratory, pharmacy, and more departments.
Our hospital has recently affiliated with a much larger entity, and we seem to be the only union shop in their network, so our days of being a union shop will eventually come to an end. Time will tell if that’s good or bad.
Now that I got that long story out of the way, I don’t know if there’s a “specific” union for Biomed. But definitely do your research first, because not all unions are equal, but they’re all happy to take your money.
A: I think there are unionized biomeds in New York. I’m sure there are unions willing to invite biomeds into their union.
A: My department is in a bargaining unit and it has benefitted us.
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