PASNAP Welcomes Lisa Leshinski as Executive Director

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After an extensive search that involved a professional recruiter, review of several dozen resumes, and many interviews, PASNAP’s Board of Directors is excited to announce that Lisa Leshinski will be joining us as our new Executive Director.

Lisa has deep roots in the labor movement, including experience as an organizer, staff rep, negotiator, and union attorney. She has worked extensively with nurses and other health professionals, and even worked with PASNAP from 2002-2005, helping to lay a strong foundation for our newly formed union.

Lisa is a proven leader with a wealth of knowledge and a deep commitment to our issues. We are thrilled to have her on board. 

Interview with Lisa Leshinski, PASNAP Executive director

What sparked your interest in the labor movement?

I think that most people don’t realize that they have so few legal protections at work. Unless you’re in a union you are an at-will employee and you are not guaranteed a fair workplace or sometimes even a safe workplace.

I always knew that I wanted to do something to help other people, but I wasn’t sure what that was until my first union organizing campaign in Massachusetts. Historically unions fought for worker protections, like a minimum wage and limits on child labor, but I personally did not grow up in a union household.

In the mid-1990’s I was recruited on my college campus to participate in a union organizing internship program run by the AFL-CIO. For 6 months I worked with experienced organizers talking to unorganized employees about the union. I was hooked. It just all made sense to me. As a union we are empowered to advocate for fairness in our workplaces. And the bigger picture is that collectively we can fight for fairness on a large scale — pressing for laws that require safe staffing ratios or limit mandated overtime.

What teachers have done to advocate for fair funding for schools in states like West Virginia and Oklahoma, which had been starved by state legislatures, is inspiring. Teachers made the whole country take notice. But it took organizing, in individual schools and statewide. Unions are powerful voices for change, which is why there has been such a coordinated attack against us.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned during your years organizing, representing, and fighting alongside union members?

This is such a great question! I have learned so many things from so many people over the years, and I am still learning. A key lesson I have learned is that unless union members are running the union we have no power and we will not succeed. That means that if we’re organizing a hospital, those hospital employees have to be on the organizing committee. They have to talk to their co-workers. They have to be public about their support for the union. With the union there is no such thing as secret support. If we’re negotiating a contract we need a representative in-house committee, and we need to talk to the most respected people and convince them to participate because their voices matter. It might be easier for an organizer to do it herself, rather than doing the hard work of getting employees to participate, but participation builds the union and that’s what gives us power. (And as a mom, I can attest to the fact that making dinner WITHOUT helpers is always easier.)

A lot has changed since you last worked with PASNAP. What makes you most excited about coming back?

PASNAP is a more mature union now. Members are making important decisions about how the union should be run, and that is obviously very positive. I think that other nurses and health care professionals have taken notice, which is why PASNAP is the fastest growing union in Pennsylvania. I am very hopeful that we can keep that momentum going.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing healthcare workers over the next few years? How do we prepare ourselves to take on those challenges?

I may be preaching to the choir, but I am concerned about the rise in profit-driven healthcare. Even when we had the same patient-focused mission as hospital employers it wasn’t easy, but it will be harder when the bottom line for the employers is their top consideration. I can’t see how that could be good for patients or caregivers. We have to keep organizing and run our own agenda and push for what we think is important.

What would you want to see PASNAP accomplish in the next year? In five years?

I want to see more organizing successes. There is power in numbers! More members will give us more power to get better contracts and better contracts will lead to more organizing.