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National Nurses United, the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States, became even larger last week with the announcement that the New York State Nurses Association was becoming an affiliate.

The merger, the organizations said in a joint statement, is meant to “mutually grow and strengthen the power of nurses within the state and nationally to advocate for themselves and their patients.” 

NYSNA’s almost 42,000 members will boost NNU’s membership to close to 225,000 nurses and also will bring the NYSNA into the AFL–CIO, of which NNU already is a member union.

The combined group says it plans to work to create workplace standards to protect nurses from infectious diseases such as COVID-19, establish federal safe staffing laws, hold employers responsible for preventing workplace violence and advocate for nurses in other ways. For example, NNU is working to have the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice “strengthen antitrust scrutiny and anticompetitive guidelines on healthcare industry mergers and acquisitions in response to widespread adverse consequences for patients, nurses other healthcare workers and local communities.”

The presence of labor unions in nursing homes was linked to fewer infections among workers and lower COVID-19 mortality rates among residents, according to results of a Health Affairs study released this spring.

“There is strength in numbers, and a NYSNA affiliation with NNU will strengthen our fight to protect nurses, our patients and our communities,” NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN, CCRN, BSN, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that this affiliation connects us more closely to the national and international labor movement, which is essential to improving the lives of working people.”

NNU’s other affiliate nursing organizations include the California Nurses Association / National Nurses Organizing Committee, the District of Columbia Nurses Association, the Michigan Nurses Association and the Minnesota Nurses Association, which recently engaged in the largest nurses strike in US history as 15,000 nurses walked off the job to protest understaffing and overwork.

“NYSNA is already a powerhouse in its own right and has done such an amazing job representing nurses in New York state,” said Jean Ross, RN, co-president of NNU. “We are honored they have voted to join forces with us in building our national movement of nurses to fight for our profession, our patients, and the health of our communities.”