Strength In Numbers
Nurses and Labor Unions
Strength in Numbers – Nurses and Labor Unions
The mission is successful negotiation of fair wages, safe working conditions and exemplary patient care. Can the nation’s labor unions help nursing healthcare professionals meet these mission goals? Battles are currently being fought to preserve and reform the Nation’s healthcare system. Along with proposed changes to the affordability and accessibility of medical care, healthcare providers will be faced with challenges of patient-to-provider ratios, rising costs, falling salaries/benefits and change in patient care roles. Will quality care be provided and will the compensation and benefits be commensurate to the level of provider care and patient needs for the nursing profession? How can labor unions propose to support the nursing profession in this changing environment? General union philosophy contends that there is strength in numbers. Workers banding together will allow providers and patients mutual benefits from the upcoming changes and challenges. The Nurses
The healthcare industry is the fastest growing industry in the nation. Some factors contributing to this trend are the aging of the United States population, the growing numbers of those reaching retirement age and the increase in illnesses which were once primarily diagnosed as adult illnesses (i.e. diabetes, obesity). With increases in the patient count, it is reassuring to know that nurses in the workforce are expected to increase by approximately 22% over the next few years (BLS). The Nursing sector of the healthcare industry has many levels of service, both in the private and public venues, as indicated in the chart below: Data series| Employment,
Home health aides| 399,600|
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses| 263,520| Medical and health services managers| 34,100|
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants| 797,110|
Registered nurses| 167,540|
Note: These employment estimates include employment in both the private-sector and government| |
(Source: Occupational Employment Statistics) (Occupational Employment Statistics) Even with the numbers above and the increase in the population of the healthcare industry workers, with the growing patient base, some wonder if there will be enough providers to meet the increasing needs. Some challenges facing the Nursing community are * Longer work hours;
* Reduced compensation/benefits;
* Changing care taker roles; and
* Patient-Staffing Ratios.
These types of challenges are conditions that Union organizers look for when approaching a group/class of workers to come together for a common goal. The need for nursing professionals has grown over the past decade. The working conditions, including hours, facilities and wages and benefits, are a focal point of concern in this work class. As mid-level professionals, nurses must succumb to the needs of the patient and the requirements of professionals in managerial roles in order to complete their work effectively. As a result of the necessity for effective, diligent work performance, many nurses have elected to join associations and unions that enable them to meet these needs The Unions
Organizations such as the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), or the National Nurses United (NNU) can assist workers in the industry to secure better working conditions, higher pay and increased benefits. In recent years the merger of smaller unions into a larger union or even just a partnership with a larger union, creates the hope that a larger voice will succeed in better outcome. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is one such organization. The SEIU boasts of a 2.2 million membership roll (SEIU). The union is “…dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane...