Healthcare Unions Strike While Their Iron Stays Hot

by | Feb 9, 2023 | Bargaining/Negotiations, Healthcare, SEIU, Strikes, Unions

The healthcare industry could use a vacation, and this obvious statement is also no exaggeration. For years, hospital systems have endured a futile struggle to fix chronic staffing shortages worsened by the pandemic. No relief sits on the immediate horizon, and unions are using this reality to their advantage by calling for more strikes.

In late January, National Nurses United asked nurses to rally across the U.S. for better wages and working conditions. That call was answered by RNs who participated in a coordinated mega-event across the nation, including in El Paso and Austin, Texas. Prominent rallies also surfaced in Tucson, Arizona; Palm Springs, California; and Wichita, Kansas. A universal cry surfaced: nurses demand safer staffing practices.

In response, hospitals face little choice but to boost wages to retain nurses, especially since Medicaid dollars no longer sit at pandemic levels with another redetermination in the works. Also, the trend of hiring temporary traveling nurses is now a too-expensive option. As a result, this industry faces big raises at prominent facilities:

  • New York City’s nursing strikes sent 7,000 nurses to the picket lines in January, a three-day hardball tactic that disrupted the already chaotic flow at two major medical centers. A three-year contract materialized with 19% raises and the creation of 170 new job openings, along with a blueprint for recruitment.
  • Los Angeles workers at Providence Cedar-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center will receive 40% raises over the course of four years. Those 600 SEIU members include nurses, housekeepers, respiratory therapists, and techs. The contract includes additional holiday recognition including Martin Luther King Jr. day.
  • Minimum wage boosts also surfaced in some newly SEIU-waged deals. That’s the case at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which raised minimum wage in addition to promising 30% raises over the course of a three-year contract to already on-staff nurses. Likewise, SEIU-represented staffers at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California will now receive a $25 minimum wage.

Watch the nursing home front as well: Workers at eight Pennsylvania facilities recently agreed to a new three-year contract that will bring them 20% raises. In Detroit, 1,000 SEIU members might soon go on strike at several long-term care facilities after contract talks stalled. Also key: Michigan nursing homes have reportedly seen 10,000 workers leave the profession during the pandemic, and a Detroit-based executive went on record to forecast greater staffing difficulties to come for these providers.

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