Unions Try New Tactics in Disputes with Hospitals
As the "traditional strike declines in importance," labor unions representing hospital workers are using new "pressure techniques" in labor disputes, such as "rolling blackout" strikes, advertisements, picketing, newsletters and "critical" Web sites, the Baltimore Sun reports. Jarol Manheim, author of "Labor Pains: The Corporate Campaign Against the Healthcare Industry" and professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, said that traditional strikes turn "public opinion against the union." In contrast, short, periodic walkouts serve as "solidarity builder," pressuring management but also "preserving the moral high ground for the union." Sal Rosselli, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 250 in Northern California, added that a series of short strikes, along with other "pressure," is not as "disruptive to patient care and [is] a good tool to educate the community." After his group spent a year bargaining and performing rolling strikes, it won a contract at several Catholic Healthcare West hospitals. The union continues to "battle" Sutter Health. SEIU District 1199E-DC workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Sinai Hospital are preparing to walk off the job at noon today for a three-day strike. Union members intend to distribute brochures around campus as Johns Hopkins University celebrates Homecoming this weekend. The union also has launched a "Hopkins Watch" newsletter and Web site. Whether their tactics will work remains to be seen. But Manheim said, "You win some, you lose some. But [unions] must win enough, relative to the cost, to keep doing them" (Salganik, Baltimore Sun, 4/19).