On Oct. 25–26, 2017, National Federation of Nurses (NFN) representatives from the member state nurses associations of Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Washington met in Seattle for a “NFN Celebration and Summit” to celebrate the history and accomplishments of the NFN and completion of the affiliation with our new national union, the American Federation of Teachers, AFT. The celebration also marked the dissolution of the formal structure of the NFN. The keynote speaker for the event was Randi Weingarten, AFT President.
WSNA was represented at the celebration and summit event by NFN Vice President Susan E. Jacobson; NFN Executive Board members Judi Lyons and Renata Bowlden; WSNA Cabinet Chair Julia Barcott,; WSNA President Jan Bussert; WSNA Cabinet members Edna Cortez, Fran Castillo and Martha Goodall; WSNA staff Sally Watkins, Christine Watts, Margaret Conley and Tara Goode; and former WSNA staff Judy Huntington and Barbara Frye.
Brief history of the NFN
2007 ollowing the disaffiliation from the United American Nurses (UAN) in December 2007, the state nurses associations of Montana, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Washington formed a labor states coalition and began to work together to form a new national union of Nurses Labor Organizations (NLOs). The resulting new union was called the National Federation of Nurses (NFN). The Montana Nurses Association joined NFN shortly thereafter.
Over the next 12 months, the coalition worked together at least monthly by conference calls and face-to-face meetings to develop a NFN Constitution and Bylaws based on a set of “Core Covenants” dedicated to respect for each state association’s sovereignty and transparency and to build a strong collaboration to meet the needs of nurses everywhere.
2008 hen the National Federation of Nurses was founded in 2008, the stated purposes of the NFN were to strengthen and assist member NLOs and to establish and implement an effective national labor agenda that supports and advances the economic and general welfare, workplace conditions and practice of RNs through collective bargaining and shared decision-making.
2008–2011 hese were the formative years for the NFN. Much time and effort was spent developing policies and procedures, assisting each other in state organizing and defending against attacks from other unions—including the National Nurses United (NNU), working on a National Labor Agenda, and preparing to apply for a national charter with the AFL-CIO. It was also a period of great unrest in the New York State Nurses Association, which was undergoing an internal raid. NYSNA ultimately was taken over by new radical leadership and disaffiliated from both ANA and NFN in 2012.
2011–2013 ne of the main objectives of NFN was to achieve a charter as a national union within the AFL-CIO. After our disaffiliation from the UAN, it was necessary to wait three years to apply for a national Charter with the AFL-CIO. The NNU strongly objected to and opposed any direct affiliation or national charter for the NFN within the AFL-CIO. During 2011 there were many meetings with attorneys and the AFL-CIO to see if we could find a path back to direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO. The disaffiliation of NYSNA from the NFN in 2012 further weakened our ability to gain recognition, with the loss of half of the NFN membership (approximately 35,000 RNs.)
Ultimately, the AFL-CIO made it clear that from their perspective there would be no direct charter to NFN and the only options open to us were either a reaffiliation with NNU or an affiliation with another AFL-CIO national union.
As a result, in 2012, NFN appointed an NFN “Membership Committee” to begin exploration of an NFN affiliation with another national AFL-CIO labor union. After evaluating many different national unions, the membership committee narrowed the field to three possible national unions: AFT, AFSCME and OPEIU.
The NFN Board and the NLOs, after careful vetting and much deliberation and discussion, selected AFT as the union of our choice and in 2012 an affiliation agreement was negotiated. It was an exciting time and proved to be a truly great decision!
2013–2017 In February and March of 2013, NFN and its member NLOs successfully negotiated and signed a 5-year affiliation agreement with AFT and, through the affiliation, regained its membership in the AFL-CIO. The affiliation with AFT became permanent in February 2017.
Dissolution and a vote for change
Now that the AFT affiliation is permanent and we have regained membership within the AFL-CIO, the question arose whether we needed to continue the NFN in its present form, dissolve or reorganize into a different structure.
Following a year of discussions, the NFN Executive Board voted in Aug. 2017 to formally dissolve the NFN and begin a transition to a more voluntary, less formalized coalition structure to meet as needed. The action of the Executive Board was ratified by a vote of the elected labor leadership of each of the four remaining NFN states on Sept. 27, 2017.
Rationale for a less formalized structure and possible return to a coalition meeting format was supported because the NFN leaders believe there is still value in the NLOs that represent primarily RNs and are a part of ANA in coming together for mutual support and collaboration on important nursing and labor issues, even as we participate actively in the AFT. They also believe there is value in continuing to build on those relationships and that it can be done as a coalition as opposed to a separate organization with a formal structure. The coalition format may also open up possibilities for additional states to want to participate in the coalition.
For the past few years, NFN operated with minimal staff and has been rebating back nearly all the NFN dues to the NLOs for their use. WSNA has used the rebate to offset the impact of the new AFT dues on our members. Additionally, NFN has provided additional support to the NLOs in the form of organizing and special assistance grants. Because the NFN dues have been paid out of the total WSNA dues collected from our members represented for collective bargaining, there will be no change to the current WSNA dues as a result of the recent structure change.