Healthcare Unions Post Strong Gains

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , October 18, 2010

In addition to expanding their rank and file, Trivisonno says healthcare unions will tap their connections in the federal and state government to push for hot-button mandates like staffing ratios.

"You will begin to see decisions coming out, we are already seeing some, that are going to further provide unions with additional protections and rights, not just to organize, but with employee discharges, the ability to strike, permanent replacements, a host of things," he says.

Trivisonno says that—if Republicans take the House next month—NRLB will be pressed "to jam as many decisions in as they can, this very liberal NLRB, between now and August," when the term of President Obama's controversial recess appointment of labor lawyer Craig Becker expires.

"It will be a much less liberal board after August of next year. I would look for that. They will overturn cases that currently exist. Clearly they will be favorable to labor unions," Trivisonno says.

Organized labor often taps into the anxiety of workers during a recession, which Trivisonno says was shown in the spike in union victories in decertification elections. "Unions won nearly 90% of the de-cert elections in the first six months of last year. That number is off the charts," he says. "It's the economy again. Employees have concerns about downsizing and benefits. They are seeing these things happening, and the union says if you have a union contract this couldn't happen. Without a union contract, the employer is free to make changes."
Trivisonno believes that nurses unions' influence might increase as the economy recovers and the nursing shortage returns as an issue.

"You will see some additional union organizing and pushes for state and federal legislation around staffing ratios," he says. "In nursing, as staffing becomes a bigger issue, nurses will seek out unions in an attempt to fix that problem for them and potentially get staffing ratios in a collective bargaining agreement."

Trivisonno says NNU has accomplished a lot since its formation last year, and he credits the effective leadership and cooperation between NNU and SEIU for much of the success.

"The arrangement is the NNU gets the nurses, the SEIU gets everyone else," he says.

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