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Healthcare Unions Post Strong Gains

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 18, 2010

The first six months of 2010 were very productive for the nation's healthcare unions, and there is little to indicate that the tide is turning in management's favor, at least for the next year or so.

The 35th Semi Annual Labor Activity in Healthcare Report—conducted by IRI Consultants for the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration—found union win rates in healthcare representation elections have held above 70% for five straight years.

Even more impressive, in the first six months of 2010 the Service Employees International Union won 91% of its representation elections, and the newly formed National Nurses United won 100% of its elections.

Clearly, when a healthcare union targets a hospital for an organizing campaign, it's highly likely that the union will succeed.

The report's findings indicate more aggressive attitudes by healthcare unions that show no sign of abating into 2011.

For example:

  • In 2009, there were a total of 220 organizing elections in the healthcare sector, and unions won 153 (70%) of them. In the first six months of 2010 there were 143 elections in the healthcare sector and unions won 105 (73%).
  • SEIU accounted for 39% of all organizing petitions filed in the first six months of 2010, up from 27% in 2009. AFSCME and UFCW, both with 11%, followed by IBT, with 8%, and NNU, with 5%.
  • 27% of organizing petitions filed in healthcare organizations in the first half of 2010 were withdrawn, dismissed, transferred or nullified—down from 48% in 2009.
  • Unions won a staggering 89% of decertification elections in the first six months of 2010 versus 58% in 2009.
  • In 2009, there were 11 strikes that idled 2,614 workers, averaging 238 workers per strike. In the first half of 2010, there were seven strikes involving 13,898 workers, averaging 1,985 workers per strike.

IRI President Jim Trivisonno says unions are at a distinct advantage for a number of reasons, including pro-labor sentiment on the National Labor Relations Board, the White House, and (at least for the next month or so) in Congress, and workers' anxiety over the economy.

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