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Gallup Survey Results: Union Approval 64%, Near 50-Year High

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Happy Labor Day! 

The folks at Gallup have published the results of their annual public opinion poll on support for labor unions. 

According to Gallup pollsters, “Sixty-four percent of Americans approve of labor unions, surpassing 60% for the third consecutive year and up 16 percentage points from its 2009 low point.” 

Pointing to the relationship between polling responses and the current unemployment rate, Gallup pollsters also reported that “the current 64% reading is one of the highest union approval ratings Gallup has recorded over the past 50 years, topped only in March 1999 (66%), August 1999 (65%) and August 2003 (65%) surveys.”   

Significantly, according to the most recent Gallup survey, support for unions is:

  • Higher among women (66%) vs. men (61%).
  • Highest among ages 18-34 (67%) vs. ages 35-54 (64%) and 55 + (61%).
  • Higher among college graduates (68%) vs. no college (58%).
  • Much higher among Democrats (82%) vs. Republicans (45%).

Union Push for Ratio Legislation Fails: What Hospital Leaders Should Do Now

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July 8, 2019

On May 31 2019, the Illinois General Assembly ended their legislative session in Springfield without seeing passage of House and Senate bills calling for mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.  Illinois lawmakers, instead, focused their attention on passing legislation intended to boost the State’s much-needed revenue.  

Unfortunately, we have likely not seen the last of organized labor’s push for legislation to mandate fixed, unit-specific nurse-to-patient ratios in Illinois hospitals.  In fact, the current make up and direction of the Illinois General Assembly virtually ensures these legislative efforts will resurface when the General Assembly reconvenes in October 2019 and carrying through to future legislative sessions.   

Unions are Using Legislative Efforts to Target Illinois Nurses for Organizing
Of course, the two labor unions in Illinois that represent RNs (Illinois Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United) support this staffing legislation and are working overtime to use their advocacy for the proposed new laws to attract and target registered nurses across the State (and especially in the greater Chicago area).  For example, in recent months, hospitals in Chicago’s south suburban region have reported trespassing by union organizers who attempt to visit patient care units to engage RNs directly in discussions about union advocacy (these visits have, predominately, been reported on night shifts and weekends).  

Organizers intentionally choose nights and weekend shifts for these visits because, in hospitals across Illinois, nursing leadership on these shifts is typically limited to Charge Nurses or House Supervisors who may lack the supervisory authority, ability and/or motivation to properly confront union organizers and enforce the hospital’s No Solicitation policy. 

Hospitals Should Boost Leadership Presence, Awareness and Skill
There are lots of good reasons for administrators to increase leadership presence on nights and weekends. For example, beyond consistent policy enforcement, strong and effective leadership leads to improved employee engagement.  To ensure your leaders have the ability to enforce hospital polices, and the skill and confidence to discuss Illinois’ proposed staffing legislation, we recommend the following actions:  

  • Review and revise job descriptions (and actual job duties) of night/off-shift leaders (e.g., permanent Charge Nurses, House Supervisors, etc.) to ensure leaders in these roles have “statutory supervisory authority” under the law and are equipped to enforce hospital policies;
  • Provide nursing leaders with refreshed training on union awareness, including training and education about Illinois’ proposed staffing legislation and research findings from California’s experience; and,
  • Implement purposeful leader rounding to increase interaction between leaders and staff, to advance understanding of organizational challenges/accomplishments and to facilitate rapid response to immediate issues of concern. 

Chessboard can support your organization in preparing leaders with the skills and confidence to effectively deal with the current climate of increased union organizing and union advocacy efforts.  Feel free to call or email us to learn more. 

Welcome to 2019: We are living in interesting times!

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January 1, 2019

At Chessboard, our continued focus is to support clients with resources and services that boost employee engagement, contributing to higher talent retention and lower vulnerability to union organizing.  And, as in years past, as we enter 2019 we see a variety of factors that represent opportunities and challenges for employers in the year ahead. 

As 2019 begins, a robust U.S. economy has resulted in a record low 3.7% unemployment rate – a long way from the peak of nearly 10% reached in 2010 during the Great Recession.  In the current prosperous climate, employees seem to prefer cooperation over conflict – suggested by a record low rate of union membership (total 2017 union membership was 10.7% and only 6.5% in the private sector).  And, while these data points imply a climate of workplace prosperity and peace, employers should take heed of potential storm clouds on the horizon:  

  • Recruitment and retention challenges will continue:  Employers in all industries cite recruitment and retention as a top challenge heading into 2019.  These issues are especially acute in the healthcare industry, with “recruitment and retention” cited as the top challenge for Chief Nurse Executives in 2019.
  • Public approval of labor unions is on the rise and highest among females, college graduates and millennials:  In the latest Gallup survey, public approval of labor unions registered another increase (62%, up from 61% in 2017).  Significantly, according to the Gallup survey, support for unions is higher among women (64%), college graduates (70%) and those ages 18-34 (65%).  Separately, research published in January 2018 by the MIT Worker Voice Project indicates that 48% of workers say they would join a union if they could, significantly higher than previous highs of 32% in 1995 and 33% in 1977.
  • The 2018 mid-term election outcomes will boost union influence in 2019:  With Democrats in control of the House in 2019, employers should expect an aggressive oversight and legislative agenda regarding labor and employment issues.  The newly elected House Democratic majority will likely focus on drafting legislation that supports a progressive narrative.  Such efforts will surely include the previously referenced proposal to increase the minimum wage but could also include proposals to expand family/sick leave and increase union rights (i.e., the Workplace Democracy Act).  And, while this proposed legislation is unlikely to be signed into law, it will stake out the Dem’s legislative priorities ahead of the 2020 election cycle.

Employers who thrive in this environment will be those who find new and creative ways to engage and involve employees.  Although providing competitive total compensation will remain important for attracting and retaining top talent, organizations that emphasize high-quality communication and actively engage employees to participate in shared decision-making are more likely to achieve the coveted “destination employer” status.