NLRB Ruling Affects Temporary Workers at Health Care Facilities
Many health care organizations use staffing firms to supply temporary workers. According to NLRB, 2.87 million U.S. residents were employed via temporary staffing agencies in August 2014. In addition, the American Staffing Association found that as of last year, 9% of all temporary staffing employees worked in the health care industry.
While some of the health care facilities that employ temporary workers are unionized, most health care temporary staffing agencies are not.
Ruling Details, Outlook
NLRB said that workers employed by temporary staffing agencies are employed by both the agencies and the organizations at which they work, meaning those organizations should have a role in any collective bargaining with temporary workers. Organizations also could be held liable for unfair labor practice cases filed with the federal government by temporary workers.
Bob Bruno, a professor of labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said that the ruling means temporary employees "now become a really attractive target for organizing because what union wants to unionize one shop when it can organize the whole industry?" He added, "If you could successfully unionize these workers, you could reach thousands of hospitals."
If that happens, hospitals might have to negotiate with more unions, as permanent employees could be in different unions than temporary staff, he noted.
Meanwhile, National Nurses United said the ruling means large health care organizations no longer will be able to avoid liability by directing blame to local managers who engage in illegal labor practices. NNU in a statement said, "We are hopeful this ruling will help crack down on a clear abuse that tramples on the rights of workers and the interests of patients, and hold the CEOs, who dictate employment terms, accountable when they, and all the subsidiaries and contractors whose policies they dictate, violate basic workplace protections and the right of employees to act together to protect their interests."
Before the ruling was issued, the American Hospital Association and several other national groups had filed a friend-of-the-court brief requesting that NLRB continue to separate workplaces from staffing agencies unless the employers have direct and significant control over employees.
ASA said it doubts the ruling will have a major effect on health care staffing practices. For example, ASA said it is unlikely the ruling would boost unionization among temporary employees. ASA General Counsel Stephen Dwyer in a statement said, "Prior board decisions that effectively made it easier for temporary workers to unionize did not demonstrably result in increased unionization of such workers, and that largely remains the case today" (Rubenfire, Modern Healthcare, 8/28).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.