Los Angeles Times Examines ‘Battle’ Between Nurse Unions
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined the how nurses in California "have become targets of aggressive campaigns by two unions that are competing for labor dominance in the state's hospital sector." The 50,000-member California Nurses Association, which is "fiercely independent" and only represents registered nurses, and the 275,000-member Service Employees International Union, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and represents all nurses as well as hospital janitors and respiratory-care operators -- are two "fast-growing unions with opposing cultures and agendas," the Times reports. The SEIU and the CNA have filed for union elections at about 20 hospitals and have their "sights on organizing dozens more" facilities. The unions have targeted many hospitals owned by Tenet Healthcare, the nation's second-largest hospital chain and a company that "is widely known for its tough anti-union campaigns" (White, Los Angeles Times, 8/3). However, the hospital chain recently reached an agreement with the SEIU and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a smaller union that competes with the SEIU and the CNA for members. Under the three-year agreement, nurses and other employees of Tenet hospitals in California and Florida will receive a 29% wage increase over the next four years. Nurses represented by SEIU and AFSCME will receive wage increases of 8% in the first year and 7% in each of the next two or three years. The nurses represented by the two unions cannot strike over the three-year period of the agreement. The agreement also will allow nonunion employees at Tenet hospitals to vote to join the two unions without opposition from Tenet; those who join one of the unions will receive the wage increase included in the agreement. CNA was offered the same agreement, but union officials rejected it (California Healthline, 5/5). The agreement "essentially opened the door for the union to organize Tenet's 40 California-based hospitals," the Times reports.
After the deal, SEIU organizers began campaigning for the union inside Tenet hospitals by passing out pamphlets with salary schedules and dues and offering free food to potential members. The CNA called the deal an "illegal, fraudulent" attempt to bribe Tenet employees, and the union has "fought back" by going to Tenet hospitals during shift changes, lunch hour and work breaks, trying to portray the SEIU as "the union that sold its soul to align with Tenet," the Times reports. According to the Times, SEIU and CNA have "a lot riding on their campaigns" to unionize hospital workers because some California nurses can make over $30 an hour, and the unions collect between 1.2% and 1.6% of straight-time wages in dues. According to industry executives, the percentage of health care workers in the state represented by unions could double, in large part because of dissatisfaction over working conditions and pay. "You have two unions battling now not for just organizing at specific Tenet hospitals but all of the hospitals in the state that haven't been unionized," Gerald Kominski, associate director at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said (Los Angeles Times, 8/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.