Union Organizing in the Health Care Industry – New Unions and Alliances Among Rivals

Service Employees International Union
The Service Employees International Union  began in 1921 primarily as a janitor’s union and branched out to include government, security, and health care workers. By 2000, it was the largest, fastest-growing union in the United States, with much of that growth stemming from a series of strategic mergers with smaller unions. In June 2005, the  and six other unions left the American Federation of and Congress of Industrial   to form the Change to Win coalition. Citing the need for a renewed effort to  workers, Change to Win purports to be focused on achieving fair wages, health care benefits, and secure retirement for all employees. The coalition also encourages workers to on an industry-wide basis, consolidating smaller unions within larger unions.

In 2007, the  announced plans to launch a new health care union to serve approximately one million members, such as nurses and service workers at hospitals and nursing homes Healthcare combined financial and personnel resources from the 38 local  Healthcare unions. Of the s 1.9 million members, 900,000 work in health care. In September 2008, the   reported it would begin several high-profile projects to bring business leaders, health care providers, community and elected officials together to work on the nation’s health care system.  leaders were part of a May meeting held by President Obama to discuss a health care overhaul. More recently,  members attended town hall meetings to speak out in support of the proposed health care reform. In August, the was part of a group-largely funded by the pharmaceutical industry’s lobby-that launched $12 million in television advertisements to support Obama’s health care proposal. This group, the Americans for Stable Quality Care, could spend tens of millions more this fall.

attempted to consolidate three local units representing home health care workers into one unit last December, taking authority away from the local units. The accused the local unit officials of financial misconduct, and in response, the leaders of the local units o power at its Washington headquarters and making corrupt deals with employers. In January, a 150,000-member  local unit in Oakland was put under trusteeship by the   and the local officials of that unit were dismissed. The ousted officials formed a new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers .

announced the first workers had cast votes in of representation by the new union in March. A majority of 350 union-represented workers at four nursing homes in northern California managed by North American Health Care wanted to end their  relationship with  and join . The day after this announcement, the  filed unfair  practice charges against the four nursing homes, charging that administrators of the facilities had illegally withdrawn union recognition and colluded with a competing  union. In that same month, a National  , saying that the contract between the   and the hospital chain prevented the effort by a new union to represent 14,000 Catholic Healthcare West workers. Despite the ruling, the founding convention to formally launch the  took place in April 2009. According to  approximately 91,000 California health care workers have signed petitions filed at the  board, stating they would like be members of the new union.

The  also claims that, in response to these   has resorted to harassment and intimidation and tactics similar to union prevention. The S  that the new group has unfairly restrained and coerced workers, as well as complained to the National  r Relations Board. A decisive battle between the two unions will come in   elections reopens. Kaiser, the largest health care provider in California, has 50,000 workers that could potentially become members of

California Nurses Association/National Nurses   Committee
The California Nurses Association  began as a state chapter of the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1903. The ANA has a federated structure: Nurses do not typically join the   directly, but instead join their respective state   which has membership in the ANA. After several years of believing the ANA was not providing them adequate financial support to increase collective bargaining activity in California, the  broke ties with the ANA in 1995 and formed its own union, becoming the first state  to secede from the ANA. Since its break from the ANA, the  has acquired a reputation as one of the most aggressive  unions in the country. In 2004, the  began establishing itself in other states under the name National Nurses Committee ( . The   voted to seek affiliation in the  in 2007.   membership has doubled over the last seven years and represents 80,000 members from all 50 states.

In February United American Nurses   and the Massachusetts Nurses Association  ) announced the formation of another new union: the United American Nurses-National Nurses   Committee . With a combined membership of more than 150,000 affiliates in 19 states, it is the largest nursing union in the history of the United States.

National Federation of Nurses
The National Federation of Nurses   was officially launched in April at an event in Portland, Oregon. The   represents more than 70,000 nurses in six state nurses’ associations, including New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Based on a federated model (much like the ANA), the   the independence of each member   Membership is open to state nurses’ associations and other  that represent   is tied to the ANA, which outlines standards for nursing practices, but has historically opposed nurse unionism and includes managers in its leadership. Since nurse union leaders expect many of the 15 unions with nurse memberships to flood hospitals with  cards if the Employee Free Choice Act ( passes, they want to establish their own national union to ensure nurses are   by nurses.

From Violent Disputes to Cooperative Agreements
The signed a neutrality agreement in March 2008 with an Ohio Catholic hospital to  8,000 workers. The day before voting was scheduled to begin, members of the  distributed leaflets to discourage workers from joining the S After the workers received the leaflets attacking   and its arrangement with management for an election, called off the vote. Then at an April 2008 conference in Detroit,  staff and members protested at a banquet of members, resulting in violence. The two unions have also launched raids and counter-raids across the country, and both have sent mailings to thousands of nurses (including nurses in other unions, as well as nurses whose unions are currently trying to ) attacking each other.

After more than a year of fighting, the  signed a cooperation agreement in March. They will work together to bring union representation to all non-union   and other health care employees, as well as improve patient care standards. The unions have also agreed to refrain from raiding each other’s members and will work together toward common goals, including lobbying for congressional passage of the and   will coordinate campaigns at the largest health care systems and launch an intensive    campaign. Catholic hospital chains will likely be among the first targets.

In June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the nation’s largest unions (including the   and the   signed an agreement describing how union   will be conducted at Catholic health care facilities. (The document is similar to the one Catholic Healthcare Partners and Community Mercy Health Partners created last year with the   before the protest   the vote.) This agreement is significant because Catholic health care providers represent the largest employers and providers of services in many communities. The agreement provides seven guidelines for management at Catholic health care facilities and unions, making it easier   health care workers at these facilities.

What This Means for Your
Many experts agree that expanded , along with the passage of the  , will negatively impact our health care system. Both health care providers and industry analysts fear that  could mean higher costs and more restrictive work rules, adding to the soaring cost of delivering health care. Hospital and health care facilities need to be aware of these issues and how they can educate their supervisors and workers about the threat of .

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