UNA is born and goes directly into a bargaining crisis

On June 14, 1977 the new organization which they named United Nurses of Alberta moved into its own offices. Gurty Chinell was the union's first President and Bob Donahue became the first executive director of the new union. Two months after founding UNA, the nurses were deadlocked in contract negotiations with the Alberta Hospitals Association and when conciliation efforts failed, they ended up voting for their first strike. About twenty-five hundred nurses at seven hospitals began a legal strike on July 4th, 1977. Four days later, the provincial Cabinet passed an Order-in-Council ordering the nurses back to work and establishing a tribunal to work out a settlement binding on both parties. The nurses went back to work they had only collected two months of union dues since the UNA had been established. They could not pay the heavy fines threatened by the government. Mr. Justice Bowen, the arbitrator, awarded the nurses a nine per cent salary adjustment over one year, and the government had to do some fancy footwork to pay this in light of the six per cent ceiling in place with federal Wage and Price controls but the necessary legislation was passed and the nurses received their money.

Unfortunately, Mr. Justice Bowen rejected the union standard Rand formula for the nurses. The nationally accepted Rand formula makes it necessary for all employees in a bargaining unit to pay dues, pay the expenses of the union that represents and works for them, whether they choose to become members or not. Under Rand, it is normal for the employer to deduct union dues from pay cheques and remit the money to the union. The following year, however, UNA successfully negotiated the first hospital collective agreement (without strike action) and won the inclusion of the the Rand formula.
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