Labor Activity In Health Care Report: Five Surprising Findings

For over two decades, the IRI Consultants research team has evaluated the state of labor in the health care industry. Every six months, the Labor Activity in Health Care Report issues critical findings, guiding organizations on the best holistic strategies for avoiding unionization. Following are five groundbreaking findings from IRI's Labor Activity in Health Care Report for the first six months of 2021.

Today, the NLRB is pro-union leaning, as General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo overturns many NLRB precedents and clarifies in her memos and guidance that the Board is assuming a pro-union perspective in decisions, striving to increase union membership, and prepared to implement some of the PRO Act provisions on a piecemeal basis.  

In the health care industry, maintaining a direct connection to staff members has always been a challenge, but the current climate makes it even more so.The last U.S. Census reports there are 22 million workers in the health care industry, and this is one of the largest industries in the U.S. and one of the fastest-growing. The COVID-19 pandemic placed a spotlight on health care workers who faced, and are still facing, many challenges to providing quality care during a pandemic. Unions always find opportunities in a business crisis involving employees, and the pandemic is no exception. They are getting a lot of support from the NLRB, politicians, and even the media through communication channels like documentaries attacking industries

Unions Were Elected to Represent Health Care Workers in Record High Numbers 

In the first six months of 2021, unions won 90 percent of the 69 healthcare sector representation elections held. This is 10 percent higher than the 2020 rate in the health care industry, and 17 percent higher than the number of union elections in the non-healthcare sectors. Does the astonishing 90 percent success rate mean health care workers are more cautious about pursuing unionization until sure they can win an election vote? Or is it an impact of the pandemic creating health and safety and compensation issues that make joining a union appealing? These are the type of questions health care organizations must investigate and address.   

Most Active Health Care Union is the SEIU 

Not surprisingly, the Report revealed that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the most active union in the health care sector, accounting for the most representation elections. In the first six months of 2021, SEIU accounted for 43 percent of health care representation petitions filed with the NLRB. 

Labor Activity In Health Care

Non-Traditional Health Care Unions Are Representing More Workers 

IRI's Labor Activity in Health Care Report showed that more unions not traditionally involved in the health care industry are seeing opportunities to grow their membership. You might be surprised to find that after the SEIU, the second union accounting for the most elections is the American Federation State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The third through fifth unions holding the most union elections in the health care industry are the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Also active in health care is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The lesson is that any and every labor union is looking for health care employers with union vulnerability 

Highest Union Activity Remains in a Handful of States

A handful of states have consistently had the highest union activity, according to the 55th Labor Activity Report. The states that have had five or more union elections in the first six months of 2021 are California, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Washington. California by far has had the highest number of strikes in the healthcare industry since 2012 with 102 strikes, followed by Florida with 22 strikes; Illinois with 16 strikes; and New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania with 11 strikes each. 

Support for National Labor Unions Challenges Health Care Systems to Remain Union-Free 

Labor law professionals and other experts agree a perfect storm of events will drive more union activity in the health care system. The events include high public support, a presidential administration and Congress cohort openly supporting unions, a majority Democrat control of the NLRB, and labor laws favoring unionization. Staying union-free will require employers to develop a comprehensive approach that includes an effective and inclusive employee communication systemtransparent decision makingleadership training on labor relations, stakeholder engagement, developing positive employee relations, and a host of other strategies. 

Health Care Systems Need A Proactive Approach to Stay Union-Free 

Whether or not your health care system has already experienced union activity, the perfect storm of events is gathering speed and power. The 2022 elections will bring even more focus to empowering labor unions.. The IRI Consulting Labor Activity in Health Care Semi-Annual Report for January-June 2021 contains a wealth of information about unions and the health care industry. It is full of statistics, expert advice, and forecasts as to what the health care industry can expect in terms of union activity and details on the best strategies for staying union-free or minimizing union activity. 

Though focused on the health care industry, all employers will benefit from labor law experts, human resources professionals, and management consultants' advice. At IRI Consultants, we are always ready to assist your organization through challenging times, including multiple crises, policy battles, and changing legislation. If that perfect storm comes to your door, we would be honored to support your efforts to maintain a direct connection with your staff.

All employers and workplaces will benefit from #laborlaw experts, #HRprofessionals, and management consultants' advice. #managementconsulting #laborrelations

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