Union Busting: Moving Nurses to the Gig Economy -
Megan is an RN with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas. After a grueling four years in one of the country’s best nursing schools, she is deep in student debt. She struggled through college, graduating on the honor roll, overcoming illness, injury, military transfers, and a divorce, but she wouldn’t give up. Nursing is her passion, and she has put a lot of ICU work under her belt. On the night before she graduated, she tripped and broke her leg. The leg has healed, but this rocky start sent her into a career spiral.
This constant movement from facility to facility is blamed for the spread of COVID-19 from the Life Care nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, ground zero for the spread of the virus in Washington State to other nearby nursing homes. Agency nurses and temporary hires cobble together a living, often working one facility and picking up extra shifts on another. Nursing home work, even for skilled RNs, is one of the lowest-paid jobs in nursing.
Now she finds herself struggling in her career in Texas, a state that has one of the lowest unemployment rate for nurses in the country, and few union hospitals. As a relatively new nurse, she found herself depending on agencies for contract work -eight weeks here, twelve weeks somewhere else. Her own health care insurance pops in and out as she is sent from hospital to hospital. Sometimes health care comes immediately with a new assignment, other times it never comes at all, because her contract is up before healthcare kicks in.
A single mother, she has struggled to keep up with student loan payments, rent payments, car payments and the money it takes to support her three children in an uncertain work environment. Gaps in work -even a two-week gap -makes it impossible to keep up with her student loans. With each contracted job, there is a lag until the next paycheck, missed days that chip away at her income. Eventually Megan got behind in rent, lost her home of three years and had to move with her three children, two who are still in primary grades, to an extended stay hotel. Her credit rating dropped with each missed or underpaid bill. Eventually she relinquished her full custody rights, sending her kids to live with their dad and his wife, trading her full custody for the visitation rights he agreed to after the divorce five years ago. She is heartbroken, and…