Earlier this year, the Bureau of Labor indicated that “the healthcare industry is not heavily unionized.” However, with health care expected to “generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018,” organized labor or unions have aggressively targeted the industry. A study conducted by IRI Consultants for the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration found that unions organizing in the health care industry over the past five years have won 70% of the elections held to determine whether workers unionize. Even more evidence that unions are gaining traction in hospitals is that the study found that unions have won 105 of the 143 such elections in the health care industry in the first half of 2010.
As a result, health care employers should ensure that employees have the information they need to make an informed decision about responding to these union communications. For example, employees need to clearly understand that these organizations are labor unions and not professional associations. They organize employees, they bargain and they strike. In fact, earlier this year, this country saw the largest nursing strike in U.S. history and another strike in California was blocked by a San Francisco judge.
With unions targeting health care workers, employers should inform employees about unions and provide employees with a balanced response to the union’s current message for reform. Employers should openly discuss the union’s creative organizing tactics and messages with employees.