Management Gets the Union it Deserves

John Commins, March 28, 2011

Maybe it's workers' anxiety and uncertainty associated with the struggling economy and the sweeping changes under healthcare reform. Maybe it's dissatisfaction with staffing ratios, hours and wages. Or, maybe it's simply poor management by hospital leaders.

Whatever the reason, healthcare labor unions continued to demonstrate remarkable success at organizing workers in 2010, just as they have for most of the last decade.

That's according to the new Semi-annual Labor Activity in Health Care Report from the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration.

Since 2000, healthcare unions have on average won well more than 60% of organizing elections. In the last five years they've won about 70% of elections, demonstrating that the success they've had predates the labor-friendly Obama Administration.

In 2009, there were 220 union elections in the healthcare industry, and unions won 153 of them (70%). In 2010, there were 305 elections in the healthcare industry, and unions won 215 of them (70%).

The Service Employees International Union won 75% of its elections in 2010. It was involved in more elections (105) than any other union, accounting for 44% of all representative petitions filed in healthcare in 2010 compared with 27% in 2009. The relatively new National Nurses United proved even more formidable, winning 94% of its organizing elections in 2010, its first full year of operations.

"There is a lot of uncertainty in healthcare, with the reforms and the impact that that will have," says Jim Trivisonno, president of IRI Consultants, who compiled the report for ASHHRA. "People have to work harder than they have before. Organizations are looking to improve efficiencies through process improvements. There are major changes in the way patient care is delivered. There is electronic medical records implementation. Major changes lead to employee uncertainty."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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