Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Four Philadelphia hospitals, along with two hospital contractors and seven area nursing homes, recently reached contract settlements with District 1199C of the National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees (an affiliate of AFSCME). The hospital agreements included pay increases of 2.5% to 3% for each year of the six-year contracts. The hospital contracts also call for increases in pension contributions to address the fact that the union pension fund was in critical status. The contracts apparently did not include any concessions by the union.
The union’s strategy was to coordinate its activity at all of these entities, including holding a strike authorization vote at all facilities and issuing coordinated 10-day strike notices. The union also enlisted the aid and support of other unions including 1199 SEIU. The union’s actions reflect the most dangerous tactic currently being used by unions throughout the country. By threatening to take multiple health care providers in an area out on strike at the same time, the unions hope that healthcare employers will capitulate to their demands. This tactic places the health and welfare of patients at risk by disrupting operations at multiple hospitals and other health care facilities.
The union’s public statements on the settlements contend that its tactic worked, which could embolden other unions to employ similar strategies. Indeed, National Nurses United (NNU) has been employing this strategy for several years.
As more health care employers grapple with the need to cut health care expenses to reduce health care costs, similar efforts from unions should be expected. Employers entering negotiations need to be as prepared as possible for the threat of strike, and specifically for the possibility of coordinated strike activity.
Photo credit: Alex Nikada