Workplace & Labor Issues

Arizona Labor Media

 Turning a new page in history



In 1917, the city of Jerome served as the state’s mining capital as well as the epicenter of Arizona’s labor movement. That year, a newspaper called The Arizona Labor Journal reported the mounting worker struggles in Jerome that it would later describe as “the greatest strife in the history of Arizona’s workers.”

Faced with unjust wages, long hours, safety issues and other grievances, the Jerome miners had turned to unions to rectify their brutal working conditions, with a rash of strikes threatening to disrupt the United Verde Copper Company profits.

On July 17, 1917, the newspaper described the deportation of striking miners, highlighting their battle cry: “Insist on the Six-Hour Day! Act to Free Yourself from Wage Slavery!”

At 6 a.m. that morning, a group of company vigilantes rounded up more than 250 striking miners and herded them into the United Verde offices for termination. According to The Arizona Labor Journal, they were loaded aboard a cattle car attached to a Santa Fe freight train while their ringleaders were jailed in Prescott.

A similar debacle occurred in Bisbee that same year, which was reported in great detail by numerous media across the state, including The Prescott Journal Miner, The Tucson Citizen, the Arizona Republic and the Associated Press.

The deportation of Arizona's striking workers in Bisbee and Jerome was completed. Their protesting voices had been squelched along with their rights in workplaces wrought with safety hazards, injustice and abuse. 

Same woes, different era

Now, 90 years later, the Jerome area continues to make Arizona labor history.  


The Sedona Observer, launched in 2007 to carry the torch from The Arizona Labor Journal and produced just a few miles from Jerome, fills the gap left by mainstream media's lack of in-depth reports on labor news and views.


While based in the Verde Valley, the Observer offers a voice for all workers, labor unions and their members, as well as social justice organizations throughout Arizona and across the entire nation.


Written and edited by a professional labor journalist from the International Labor Communications Association and the National Writers Union, its purpose is to expose the truth about anti-union, anti-worker business and government practices as a means of supporting more win-win solutions for both workers and their employers.


Ironically, it echoes workers’ rights issues chillingly similar to those chronicled in the pages of The Arizona Labor Journal in 1917.


A labor and media movement

Dedicated to educating, enlightening and empowering working people instead of the heralding the corporate elite's acts of piracy, The Sedona Observer strives to deliver the truth about labor, workplace and socioeconomic issues much like The Arizona Labor Journal did back in 1917 – with entire pages devoted to them instead of surface, sound bite reports.


We hope our articles can inspire more unity among workers and greater understanding of labor issues while serving as a catalyst for action and compassion for today’s beleaguered work force.


Now more than ever, American workers need a unifying force that can protect their rights, ensure better wages and benefits, provide grievance and mediation systems and safeguard them against unfair practices.

The Observer's Labor and Workplace page is designed not only to resurrect a new movement of worker empowerment in America, but also as a revival of the media's moral responsibility to report labor issues as a vital component of public service journalism.

We invite other members of the Fourth Estate to join us in the spirit of our profession to restore Americans' sacred trust in the media by upholding their First Amendment rights.


Meanwhile, we will continue writing headlines in the style of our predecessors at The Arizona Labor Journal:

“Insist on the Six-Hour Day! Act to Free Yourself from Wage Slavery!”


Catherine J. Rourke

Managing Editor/Labor Journalist

International Labor Communications Association

National Writers Union, Local 1981

Written February 1, 2008 in Jerome, Ariz.

Arizona Hospital Patient

Protection Act


HB 2041 gains momentum

Proposed legislation sets safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios,

ability for nurses to advocate for urgent patient safety measures


Phoenix, Ariz. - State nursing leaders today announced the historic introduction of major legislation to make Arizona hospitals safer for patients and strengthen the ability of nurses to expose unsafe conditions and advocate for patient protections.


HB 2041, the Arizona Hospital Patient Protection Act, is sponsored by House member Rep.Tom Prezelski (D-Tucson) at the request of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Marian McClure, Steve Gallardo, Kyrsten Sinema, Jackie Thrasher and Phil Lopes.


Introduction of the bill was hailed by nurses across the state, who have voiced increasing alarm about the erosion of care conditions in Arizona hospitals that they say put patients at risk and fan the nursing shortage since many nurses will no longer work in unsafe hospitals.

Make hospitals safer  

The legislation is designed to make Arizona hospitals safer by guaranteeing more prudent nurse-to-patient ratios, protecting the right of nurses to act as whistle-blowers against unsafe conditions and offering legal recognition of the professional and moral obligations of nurses to act as patient advocates, solely in the interests of their patients. 

Among its major provisions, the act:


  • Mandates minimum, specific nurse-to-patient staffing ratios which are widely seen by nurses and health care experts to be the most effective standard for safer nursing care and for promoting the retention and recruitment of nurses.


  • Whistle blower protection for nurses who report unsafe hospital conditions or for refusing unsafe patient care assignments.


  • Legal recognition of the right of nurses to act as advocates for their patients rather than for the economic interests of their hospital employer.


“Hospitals have a responsibility to staff properly in order for nurses to provide quality care for patients. Hospitals aren’t doing that,” said Diane Baker, a registered nurse at Flagstaff Medical Center.  “The Arizona Patient Protection Act requires staffing levels, at all times, based on the acuity of the patient. This will save lives and allow us to provide the care that our fellow Arizonans deserve.”   

Mandate needed for staffing ratios     

“A legal mandate is the safest way to establish staffing ratios and real whistle blower protection for nurses,” said Phoenix metro registered nurse Lindy Abts. “I know many nurses have left hospitals because of the staffing ratios; those same nurses have said they would return if ratios were safe for patients and for themselves.” 


Multiple academic studies have pointed to the benefits of minimum, safe, nurse-to-patients ratios.


One study, “Hospital Nurses Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurses, Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction” (Journal of the American Medical Association, October 2002), found that for every patient above four “assigned to a nurse, the mortality rate rises 7 percent” — meaning the difference between a nurse caring for four and eight patients could be an increase of as much as 28 percent in mortality, endangering thousands of Arizona patients every year.


“I have been a nurse since 1993 and have worked in different hospitals in Arizona. I know that when I worked in a Skilled Nursing unit inside of a hospital, I was assigned up to 25 patients on the night shift,” said Kirk Herbert, a registered nurse at Yavapai Regional Medical Center.

Nurses' battle cry: "We Put Patients FIRST!"

Nurses speak out and rally for patient care   

“On many occasions I had a patient developed a life-threatening complication. While I cared for this patient, the other 24 patients would end up with delayed care. With better staffing ratios, patients would receive better care, and the life that is saved might be yours,” Herbert said.


The APPA’s ratios are modeled after the successful 1999 law in California that was strengthened again on January 1.  Ratios differ by hospital area, such as a minimum of no less than one nurse for every five patients in general medical or post-surgical care units, 1:4 in pediatrics, and 1:4 in emergency rooms. The ratios are a floor, not a ceiling, with hospitals also required to increase registered nurse staffing as needed based on individual patient illness or acuity.


"HB 2041 would dramatically improve our ability to provide care,” said Tracey Chavez, a lithotripsy RN at Catholic Healthcare West St. Joe’s Hospital.  “Too frequently nurses encounter unsafe situations where they simply have too many patients. 

"We are forced into making decisions that compromise our ability to provide the best patient care versus the risk of losing or maintaining our jobs.  We need this legislation in order to provide a higher level of care for our patients and to see nurses return to the profession they love," she said.  


In addition to Arizona, nurses are promoting similar bills in Illinois, Maine, Ohio, and Texas, and working with the Massachusetts Nurses Association on a proposed ratio law in their state.


“Nurses across the nation have seen the future, and the enormous benefits of this law. They know it works for patients, nurses, and communities,” said Cortez.

Nurses from around the state gathered in Phoenix on February 14 at the state Capitol for a rally in support of HB 2041 and to lobby with legislators for its passage.


Visit http://www.calnurses.org/nnoc/arizona for more information.

Click here to read the full details about HB 2041.


Special thanks to David Glenn, Jennifer Lemmon and Jonna Peterson of NNOC Arizona and Scott Ramsey of the Communications Workers of America for photos and information — and a special salute to all the health-care workers of Arizona for their courage and conscience.

Can the Boss Do That?

Most of the time, yes.




Workers can ask a lawyer – for free

Working America Web service explains workplace rights

It may not always feel like it, but you do actually have some legal rights and protections on the job.  Now Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is offering "Ask a Lawyer" - a free online service to help workers understand their rights and determine whether the boss can do that – or not.

Go to: http://www.workingamerica.org/askalawyer/.

The 1.6 million-member Working America – the country's fastest-growing progressive organization – offers workers who don't have a union on the job a powerful voice to weigh in on the policy issues that affect them most.  Members receive a number of other benefits including access to a network of lawyers nationwide who will provide a free, half-hour consultation on a workplace issue, either in person or on the phone.

Now, Working America is also offering Ask-a-Lawyer, an online way to learn about your rights in the workplace.  You can read answers from lawyers, browse topics and send us any question that relates to your job, from "Can I get fired for something I put on my blog?" (Probably, unless you are writing about politics) to "Can I get fired for being a smoker even if I don't smoke at work?"  (Yes, in 21 states.) 

Although Working America cannot provide specific legal advice or tell you what to do, when you send in your questions about overtime, workers compensation, discrimination and pay and benefits, you will get information from a trusted source to help you better understand your rights on the job.

No identifying information – like your boss's name – is required to ask a question, and none appears on the site.  Instead, questions are reworded to ensure anonymity and the requested information appears on Working America's site as the "question of the day."

"Having a union is the best way to ensure your rights on the job are protected, but not everyone is lucky enough to work in a place with union representation," said Karen Nussbaum, director of Working America.  "For workers who don't have unions, knowing your rights is the only way to ensure that the business you work hard for every day is treating you fairly in return."











Flagstaff Medical Center charged with 53 Labor Violation Counts

Hospital nurses and workers file complaints; NLRB to prosecute FMC

Published Feb. 12, 2008

Flagstaff, Ariz. - For the fourth time in the last 18 months, FMC will be charged for violating the labor rights of its employees.

The most recent is a 53-count complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board after weeks of objective investigations. This means that the federal Labor Board will serve as the prosecutor against FMC in the upcoming hearings. An official date has not been set.

The charges range from illegally: conducting surveillance; restricting employees from being on the hospital property; disparaging by reference to them as "cockroaches" or by accusing employees of "stealing" to discredit; threatening and intimidation about loss of benefits; and offering benefits if they do not support unionization.

NNOC nurses speak out against the health industry greed that they blame for poor patient care. Photo courtesy of David Bacon.

According to the National Nurses Organizing Committee, the Global Labor and Employment Strategies union-busting firm has already trained FMC supervisors to conduct their own in-house "union prevention” package.

A federal court could hold FMC in contempt should more violations continue. In the meantime, nurses and other health care workers continue their organizing efforts for a voice in safe patient care, break relief, staffing by acuity, improved retirement plans, improved pay and, most of all, dignity and respect on the job.

The nurses at FMC have issued their commitment to the following principles:

• We have the right to be equal partners in decisions affecting our careers.

• We have the right to the elimination of favoritism and the right to be treated with dignity and respect by management.

• We have a right to negotiate wages, benefits, pensions and work rules into a legally binding contract that reflects the experience and skills we bring to our professions.

• We have the right to a fair grievance procedure process, with a representative of our choice, and impartial decision by a neutral independent arbitrator when necessary.

• We have the right to real job security, which can only be guaranteed through a legally binding contract.

The FMC nurses are also seeking:

• Whistle blower protection and grievance procedure when patient safety issues cannot be resolved.

• Improved RN-to-patient ratios and acuity system.

• Fair wage setting, fair pay, fair benefits and guaranteed paid hours without cancellation.

• RN input and decision-making ability regarding information technology.

• Improved education, training and retirement options.

• An effective RN-elected and controlled Professional Practice Committee that mandates managements' attention to issues brought before it.

Nurses in northern Arizona can contact Jennifer Lemmon at 928-255-3181 or e-mail jlemmon@calnurses.org

Visit http://www.calnurses.org/nnoc/arizona for more information about the ongoing situation at FMC, or contact:

NNOC Arizona
4904 S. Power Rd., Ste. 103-405
Mesa, AZ 85212


Whistle blower Hotline:

Arizona Nurses

According to NNOC, there are more than 44,000 registered nurses in Arizona, yet only 19,000 of them are practicing.

The reason? According to the nurses, unsafe nurse-to-patient hospital working conditions have forced many to quit their jobs rather than work under unsafe conditions that put patients at risk.

This means that nurses in most hospitals are assigned anywhere from seven to 10 patients as opposed to the standard four or five patient ratio. Some nurses claim that while hospitals earn huge profits from patients, the

The insufficient nursing staffs at most hospitals are "seriously compromising patient care," according to many nurses, and leading to complications such as mixed-up medications and even an increase in patient mortalities.

More than 3,000 nurses around the state have joined NNOC to advocate for better patient care and improved working conditions in Arizona hospitals. And an increasing number of nurses around the country have begun rallying against hospitals for compromising patient care for the sake of profit.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences reports that "nurse staffing levels affect patient outcomes and safety.” Insufficient monitoring of patients, caused by poor working conditions and the assignment of too few nurses, increases the likelihood of patient deaths and injuries. The study concludes: “How well we are cared for by nurses affects our health and sometimes can be a matter of life or death.”

For more information about Arizona's health care crisis, see DIAGNOSIS: DISASTROUS, which features doctor testimonials and the latest statistics on the impact of nurse-to-patient ratios.


An ER for Nurses!

California Nurse's Association and the

National Nurses

Organizing Committee


(800) 540-3603

Unsafe Patient Care Hotline

Report unsafe conditions at:

(800) 496-0213

Contact David Glenn: 

Phoenix 602-722-0060,

Tucson 520-326-4690

or e-mail dglenn@calnurses.org 

In Northern Arizona,

contact Jennifer Lemmon at

or e-mail jlemmon@calnurses.org 

Arizona's Tourism Workers:

Exploitation and Exasperation

Talk will focus on sub-minimum wage at hotels, rests. and Grand Canyon


Catherine Rourke, editor of The Sedona Observer and an ILCA labor journalist for many years, will host a presentation and discussion at Salt of the Earth Labor College in Tucson on April 12.

Her talk, "ARIZONA’S TOURISM WORKERS: EXPLOITATION & EXASPERATION,”  focuses on how Arizona’s tourism industry generates billions of dollars in profits for hotels, restaurants, resorts and other corporate interests while its work force includes some of the most underpaid workers, who often earn less than minimum wage.

With articles such as “The Future of Work in Sedona” and "Out to Lunch: Food Service in America," Rourke will talk about what can be done to improve working and living conditions for these workers.

Her story, "National Disgrace in Grand Canyon National Park," was published in Nickeled and Dimed in the Southwest, an anthology about low-wage jobs published by the Southwest Center for Economic Integrity in 2006.

Salt of the Earth Labor College is located at 1902 E. Irene Vista in Tucson. For more information, visit www.saltearthlaborcollege.org or e-mail SELC@webtv.net.

Adios to health care

Up, up and away is the story for health care premiums, putting them out of reach for an increasing number of American workers.

The cost of premiums has jumped by 78 percent since 2001. Wages have only risen 19 percent since that same time. Last year, premiums went up by 6.1 percent while wages rose only up 3.7 percent.

The average premium for a family of four is $12,106 and workers, on average, pay $3,281 of the premium.


Workers' Toolbox

Got an issue at work? Feel you've been wrongly terminated? Afraid you'll lose your job if you speak out? Don't know where to turn for assistance?

The U.S. Department of Labor can answer your questions about wage and hours, termination, unemployment, the Family Medical Leave Act and much more.

Here are the 10 most important numbers you'll ever need:

Arizona Call Center:

(602) 514-7033

Toll free: (866) 487-2365

Wage and Hour: (866) 487-9243


National Call Center:

(866) 487-2365

Mon-Fri., 8 a.m - 8 p.m., EST

or visit


Labor & Workplace

News and Views


Are you a worker with a challenging job situation you need to report? Are you a labor leader with an interesting update about your local campaign? Or perhaps you are someone who has a passionate commentary about some aspect of labor or the challenges of today's American workplace and archaic labor laws.

The Sedona Observer believes a responsible press should report labor news and workplace issues to enlighten today's readers about what is truly happening at work and to empower America's workers on the job. We welcome your news briefs, editorial commentaries and letters.

Send your words, editorials and photos to editor@SedonaObserver.com. Please review the guidelines for submissions on our HOW page.
















All for one;

one for all.