Health care employees continue to be a target of unions. In 2004, approximately 15% of all representation elections in the United States occurred in health care organizations. Not only are unions increasing their success rates on average in all industries combined, winning 58.6% of the representation elections in 2004, they are winning at a greater rate in health care – 69.1% or nearly seven of 10 elections last year.
Why are health care organizations and their employees being targeted? There are certainly a number of reasons including the following:
- Health care organizations (particularly hospitals) are large employers in their communities. Thus, lots of union dues to be collected!
- Greater demands (e.g., financial, staffing, acuity of patients, etc.) are being placed on health care organizations.
- Union membership has been consistently declining to a low of 12.5% (both private and public sectors) in 2004, so unions need to find industries that typically have not been organized (for the purpose of collective bargaining).
- With global competition and manufacturing jobs moving off shore, unions know that health care providers are not going to move their hospitals to another country. Thus, a stable target!
We are finding non-traditional unions in health care such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), United Auto Workers (UAW), United Steel Workers of America (USWA), and others targeting hospital employees. Why? Because they are struggling to maintain their membership, thus, translating to less union dues and less money to pay themselves.
In addition, with the California Nurses Association (CNA) and its National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) entering such states as Illinois and Ohio, we expect to see more activity. With the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) breaking away from the AFL-CIO this summer and engaging new organizing tactics, hospitals should prepare themselves.