Healthcare Leaders Sound Off on Organized Labor

John Commins, May 15, 2013

How much of a threat does organized labor pose to healthcare organizations? Hospital and health system leaders weigh in on the sensitive issue, which ranked among their top three concerns in our most recent industry survey.

This article appears in the May issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

In our annual Industry Survey, a majority of healthcare leaders cited organized labor as a threat, placing it among their organization's top three concerns. What is the nature of that threat, and what is the best way for leaders to address this?


John Haupert
President and CEO

Grady Health System

Reduced reimbursements, healthcare reform, and the future role of safety-net hospitals rank way higher for us than do issues related to organized labor. Southern states are big into right to work and are not very organized labor–friendly. I prefer that. It's not that I am anti-union, but I don't want to work in an environment where I have to go through a representative to interact with employees who are providing care to the patients. That isn't good for patient care or safety or workforce relationships, and I personally prefer not to work in that environment.

The best defense is a good offense. We all as employers—regardless of if it is healthcare or any other industry—have a huge obligation to work to create a highly engaged and committed workforce. If you go through the effort of doing that, it creates a much better organization. You fend off the desire of employees to reach out to unions. In organizations where senior leaders don't pay attention to what the front line is telling them about working conditions and the quality of frontline and midlevel leaders, benefits, pay—if you turn a deaf ear to that, you really open up the window for employees to engage unions in a discussion.

No. 1 is making sure you hear the voice of the employee.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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