Temperature Rising: Unrest in Healthcare

by | Jul 14, 2022 | Healthcare, OSHA, SEIU, States, UFCW

Nearly every profession within this industry (from physicians to nursing care staffers) seems to be fair game for union targeting. That vulnerability, in part, rises from the choppy waters of pandemic-related staffing shortages in healthcare. Newly resurrected reports of scarce personal protective gear don’t help matters, especially while new variants push more patients into hospitals amid widespread budget shortfalls.

In short, the healthcare industry as a whole is stressed out, and unions know how to seize opportunities (and make big promises) when they see them. Once a union infiltrates, subsequent bargaining table skirmishes lead to strikes, which aren’t good for anyone except union leaders.

A roundup of current industry turmoil shows the depth of ongoing union influence:

  • The SEIU stays busy: Union-represented nursing home workers in New York, California, Michigan, and Ohio will strike for higher pay amid staffing shortages.

Yet in Pennsylvania, there’s a different tactic at work. A “historic” state budget windfall, pushed by the SEIU, will raise salaries by increasing Medicaid funds (almost 20% more) for nursing homes; and although we’re talking about government funding here, one can imagine that salary increases won’t occur in a vacuum. Rather, these increases could eventually force other healthcare facilities (even those who don’t receive as much government funding) to raise salaries to stay competitive.

  • Current events reflect change: More Planned Parenthood workers (in Massachusetts) will vote for representation as they grapple with the post-Roe v. Wade world. And in Oregon, respiratory therapists (some of the most essential healthcare workers needed for hospitalized Covid-19 patients) gathered with other healthcare technicians to form an independent union.
  • Pharmacists strapped to the max: These workers overlap with the retail sector (which often brings notoriously grumpy customers), meaning that pharmacy staffers count as some of the most stressed healthcare workers of the bunch. As a result, UFCW-represented grocery pharmacists will rally for higher pay in California, which can’t seem to catch a break regarding labor turmoil…
  • Speaking of unions pushing government buttons: The Los Angeles City Council recently approved a hike to $25 per hour starting pay for workers at private hospitals. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the ordinance into law, yet the matter is not settled. A coalition of LA-area hospitals argues that the measure will actually be detrimental to patient care for budgetary reasons. The group asks that the issue goes to voters in November, rather than immediately take effect.

Don’t expect the healthcare industry to calm down anytime soon. OSHA will soon hold a hearing to decide whether to install a permanent Covid-19 safety standard to protect workers. The Supreme Court struck down the standard’s vaccine mandate, but as we’ve seen already, this pandemic is anything but predictable. Healthcare employers continue to feel chaos while also hoping to guard against the outside influence of unions.

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