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Consider a professional association, not a union

(Photo by Alex Proimus via flickr/Creative Commons)

(Photo by Alex Proimus via flickr/Creative Commons)

Since Arizona passed the Voter Protection Act in 1998, we are a target for citizens’ ballot initiatives used to pass laws championed by out-of-state interest groups. What we have learned is some ballot initiatives are essentially a Trojan horse for unions attempting to enter our state. The union starts by pretending to champion causes to make life better, when in fact these attempts are to get attention and, in the door, to increase their membership. 

Selina Bliss

Selina Bliss

Let’s take Healthcare Rising Arizona as an example. Healthcare Rising Arizona is the name used for the California Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers. Their recent attempt to pass the four-part Stop Surprise Billing & Protect Patients Act using a citizens’ ballot initiative was a disguise for growing bargaining power with their 95,000 union members based in Los Angeles. Fortunately for Arizona, this ballot initiative from this out-of-state special interest group was disqualified from the ballot by a Maricopa Superior Court judge. Had this benign-sounding initiative passed, costs for health care to patients would have increased and staffing of health care workers would have suffered. Worth noting is the unintended consequences this initiative would’ve caused as Arizona already has a law to address surprise billing, so this initiative would have caused more red tape and regulation while taking time with patients away from nurses. After this failed attempt in 2020, we knew they would be back. It appears their next project is targeting debt collectors in a nicely called initiative named the Predatory Debt Collection Protection Act. 

Time to consider an alternative. Most professions have a professional association to advocate for their members. Examples in Arizona include the Arizona Nurses Association, the Arizona Medical Association, and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. The Arizona Nurses Association is a statewide membership-based professional association of licensed nurses. Founded in 1919, it is the oldest and largest nursing association in Arizona. We are a diverse group of nurses who share a common purpose; to advance excellence in nursing. As a professional association, we are an alternative to a union. We work to advance the nursing profession through advocacy, professional development, research, continuing education, and certification in order to promote a healthy Arizona. 

As a professional association, when it comes to ethical analysis and decision making, we are bound by our code of ethics. Ratified by the American Nurses Association in 1950, the code of ethics guides how we are accountable to the profession and to society. As a volunteer leader in my professional association, I would be remiss if I sit by and fail to educate our association members, professional nurses, and the public of the differences in advocacy by a professional association versus that of a union. 

In 2020, the Arizona Nurses Association, the Arizona Medical Association, and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association banded together against the union’s most recent ballot initiative. While we as professional associations don’t always agree on legislative policy, we did agree the recent initiative by the Service Employees International Union was bad for the health and health care of Arizonans and would hurt health care workers. My intention is that insight helps enlighten health care professionals and the public for alternatives to out-of-state unions and their influence on Arizona legislation and health care policy. 

-Dr. Selina Bliss is a registered nurse in Prescott, where she has lived since 1971 and is president of the Arizona Nurses Association. 

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