A timeline of nurse power

historic photo


CNA founded: One of the first professional RN organizations in the U.S.


CNA-sponsored legislation results in the first RN licensure law.


CNA first in the nation to represent nurses in collective bargaining agreements, negotiating contracts at five Bay Area hospitals that establish the 40-hour work week, vacation and sick leave, health benefits, shift differentials, 15 percent salary increase.


2,000 CNA RNs stage mass resignation protest and win major gains, including 40 percent pay increase, eight paid holidays, and time-and-a-half for holidays worked.


CNA contract language requires hospital staffing systems based on patient acuity and nursing care with staff RNs participating in staffing assessments.


CNA-sponsored regulation establishes mandated RN-to-patient ratios in intensive care units in all California hospitals.


CNA Convention votes by 92 percent to end ties with the American Nurses Association (ANA). Adopts a program to reallocate resources to organize RNs, strengthen contracts, confront hospital industry attack on RN jobs and practice, and enact legislative and workplace protections.


CNA wins important changes in state law (Title 22) that licenses and certifies hospitals, strengthening RNs’ ability to advocate for patients. Provisions include staff RN participation on committee to review patient classification systems, floating protections, and requirement that every patient be assessed by an RN at least once a shift.


7,500 CNA Kaiser Permanente RNs wage epic battle with HMO giant to reverse unsafe hospital restructuring and RN layoffs, and to secure crucial patient safety protections.


California enacts first-in-the-nation law, sponsored by CNA, mandating minimum RN-to-patient ratios for all hospital units. CNA wins other major legislation, including whistle-blower protection for healthcare employees.


CNA negotiates contracts with salaries up to $100,000 per year for thousands of RNs.


RN Safe Staffing Ratios implemented in all California acute-care hospitals.

CNA’s dramatic growth continues, especially in Southern California, making it the largest and fastest-growing professional RN organization in the nation.

CNA organizes nurse-to-nurse relief assistance with Sri Lanka’s Public Services United Nurses Union to assist with tsunami relief efforts. A delegation of CNA RNs travels to the affected areas in Sri Lanka and work with local nurses to set up local clinics with donated medical supplies.


CNA goes national in response to an overwhelming demand by direct-care nurses across the U.S. for a national vehicle to address the crisis faced by RNs. 1,800 Cook County, Illinois RNs vote to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee, a new national affiliate of CNA.

CNA embarks on an epic campaign to save RN-to-patient ratios after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attempts to roll back the law. Schwarzenegger withdraws his challenge after tens of thousands of nurses hold 107 protests over one year.

CNA organizes Katrina relief effort, sending more than 300 RN volunteers to staff 25 healthcare facilities in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, including a contingent of 50 RNs to Houston Astrodome.


Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA) votes to join CNA/NNOC.

CNA/NNOC forms a direct-care nurse disaster relief group, the Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN).


Saint Mary’s RNs in Reno, Nevada vote to join CNA/NNOC, making it the largest RN organization in Catholic hospitals across the U.S. representing 18,000 RNs in 38 Catholic hospitals.

CNA/NNOC RNs at nine California Catholic Healthcare West hospitals win enhanced patient care protections and pay gains of 25.5 percent.


5,000 RNs with the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) join CNA/NNOC.

RNs at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center in Houston vote for CNA/NNOC representation in a dramatic breakthrough, becoming the first nurses in a private-sector hospital in Texas to win union collective bargaining rights.


First National RN Day of Action unveils the National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act, S. 1031. The bill, based on the success of the California ratio law, includes patient advocacy, whistle-blower protection, education assistance, and a preceptor and mentorship program.

Unanimous delegate vote creates the largest RN union in U.S. History; National Nurses United represents 155,000 RNs with contracts covering nurses in 24 states and individual members in all 50 states.

7,000 Veterans Affairs RNs in 22 V.A. hospitals in 11 states affiliate with National Nurses United.


6,000 HCA RNs in Nevada, Texas, Missouri, and Florida vote to ­­­­­join NNOC/NNU.

14,000 RNs sign up to volunteer for Haiti earthquake relief through RNRN. RNRN sends nurses aboard USNS Comfort and to Sacré Couer Hospital, the largest private hospital in the north of Haiti.

CNA/NNU celebrates 90th Anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment with 2,000 RNs marching in Sacramento.



Wisconsin RNs join with thousands of workers to demand an end to political attacks on working families, culminating in an historic occupation of the Wisconsin capitol.