The Doctor Might Be In The (Union) House Soon

by | Mar 24, 2022 | Healthcare, NLRB, SEIU, Strikes

Supply chain woes and labor shortages for many industries don’t quite stack up to the continued ills suffered by the healthcare systems, even as the pandemic wanes. Nurses and related professionals continue to change professions, retire, or go on strike in droves, but there’s a new twist for healthcare unions: They’re coming for doctors.

The NLRB is in favor of this, of course, and prescribed an election for physicians (as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants) at Piedmont Health Services (based in North Carolina). At issue was whether, under the NLRA, these doctors have the right to organize as employees, based upon multiple factors, including possible “supervisor” status. The NLRB determined that these Piedmont doctors could organize, which could point toward a trend that employers will want to watch.

Pennsylvania is aiming for a different trend, which involves new Medicaid contract rules that give unions the leg up against healthcare providers. In short, SEIU helped to craft a provision that would restrict Medicaid funds to heavily favor providers who recognize a union and come to a collective bargaining agreement while avoiding strikes. Critics allege that this provision will harm lower-income patients, should Medicaid funds be withheld, but clearly, government is doing everything it can to push unions.

For union nurses, the picket lines sometimes end up being better staffed than the hospitals in question. Nurses recently went on strike at two California-based systems and a New York nursing home over staffing and working conditions.

Avoiding union representation, however, can pay off for nurses. At the Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, nonunion nurses are scoring 7% salary bumps, along with hefty benefits while their SEIU counterparts are at the mercy of the bargaining table. At California’s Fountain Valley Regional, however, nurses rolled the dice by swapping out unions after 30 years – in with the National Union Of Healthcare Workers and out with the United Nurses Association of California. Will that grass be greener? Stay tuned.

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