union vulnerability

Seeking Advantage, Unions Blame Hospitals for Staffing Crisis

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January 20, 2021 – The COVID-19 crisis has impacted hospitals like nothing we have ever seen before. What started as a public health crisis has resulted in an unprecedented disruption of the entire healthcare workforce. In fact, the impact is so severe we will likely be dealing with staffing shortages for a significant period going forward – long after COVID subsides.

Unfortunately, our challenges are opportunities for unions like National Nurses United (NNU). The organizing team at NNU understands the addage, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” So NNU leaders are working overtime to forward a false narrative that goes something like this: “Greed, on the part of healthcare leaders, is the real cause of the staffing crisis – not COVID-19.” Below are some examples of how the NNU is forwarding this false narrative:

  • December, 2020: NNU releases “Deadly Shame” videos and a report entitled, Deadly Shame: Addressing the Devaluation of Registered Nurse Labor through Pandemic Equity.
  • December, 2021: NNU releases a report entitled, Protecting Our Front Line: Ending the Shortage of Good Nursing Jobs and the Industry-Created Unsafe Staffing Crisis. 
  • January, 2022: NNU holds a National Day of Action press conference to demand the hospital industry invest in safe staffing, and to demand that President Biden follow through on his campaign promise to protect nurses and prioritize public health.”

From the beginning, NNU leaders have sought to use this crisis to spread the false and misleading narrative that somehow healthcare leaders are responsible for the current staffing crisis and that hospitals are deliberately understaffing patient care units to increase profits.

Yesterday, this narrative made its way into the opinion section of the New York Times in an article and video entitled: We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals. It’s Greed. (click here to read article)

Thankfully, the American Hospital Association quickly issued a response to set the record straight (click here to read the AHA response).

NNU leaders are trying to boost membership, dues income, and the political power of their union.

The challenges facing healthcare organizations and employees are real and we should honor and respect those who are on the frontline facing these challenges. At the same time, we should encourage our employees to question the motives of groups like the NNU, who seek to use the pandemic for their own financial and political gain.

Remember, the NNU is not seeking to foster unity – unity is not good for their business model. NNU organizers know that they have a much better chance of organizing thousands of new nurse members if staff nurses and nurse leaders are divided.

Unfortunately, the confusion and stress created by the pandemic has given the NNU a golden opportunity to create that division – and they seem determined not to let that opportunity go to waste.

Nurse unions – like NNU – betray the public trust when they put their own financial and political objectives above what’s really in the best interest of healthcare employees, patients, and communities.

Approval of Labor Unions Increases Slightly to 65%, Holds at 50 Year High

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Updated (09/09/2020)  This morning, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and record high U.S. unemployment, the Gallup organization reported that approval of labor unions increased slightly year-over-year and holds steady at 65%.

In past years, we have noted a demonstrated inverse correlation between the unemployment rate and union approval.  In other words, as unemployment rises, approval of labor unions typically tends to fall.  Not this year!  

According to Gallup, this new data point could be bucking the trend because the American public is focusing on issues other than the economy. 

What are Americans focused on?  Gallup reports that overall satisfaction among Americans remains at historical lows (only 13% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going). Simply put, public health and larger social issues are the main focus these days – and for good reason. 

A Change in Direction Would be Welcomed by Most Ameircans  

At Chessboard, we monitor and analyze the political landscape from the perspective that changes in political direction typically also result in changes in national labor policy. 

If the November election produces a change in party control within Washington, we will likely return to a regulatory environment that is more supportive of organized labor.  And, in the extreme, we could see passage of pro-labor legislation such as the PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize). 

Through it all, we will be here to help you make sense of, prepare for, and respond to any changes in labor policy.  Happy Labor Day!


As COVID-19 Ravages Communities, Unions Seek an Advantage

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Updated (05/25/20) – At this moment, COVID-19 has sickened millions in the U.S.  As the U.S. death toll approaches 100,000, healthcare employees are, understandably, confused and scared; the global pandemic threatens not only public health, but also economic well-being. 
Labor unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and National Nurses United (NNU) are working overtime to exploit COVID-19-related confusion and fear. Unions are not only criticizing healthcare leaders, they are demanding “more” when it comes to compensation, paid time off, and workplace safety.  The SEIU, for example, offers a “toolkit” which includes links for employees to download and customize their own list of COVID-19-related workplace demands.

And, as the crisis evolves for healthcare leaders and staff, four topics take center stage:   1) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); 2) Expanded Paid Time Off (PTO); 3) “Hazard Pay”; and, 4) Refusal to Work Policies. 

Personal Protective Equipment:  Since mid-March many hospitals have gone beyond CDC guidelines and provided all patient-facing employees with PPE.  Still, confusion abounds. The scarcity of PPE is universal, prompting even the Joint Commission to issue a statement in support of healthcare workers bringing their own PPE from home. 

Expanded Paid Time Off:  Beyond protection for their own health and the health of their families, healthcare employees want to know their employer stands behind them if they get sick or are otherwise impacted by the pandemic (i.e., quarantined, low censused, furloughed, or laid off).  On March 31,the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) announced dramatic safety and pay-protection measures for HCA employees.

Increased Compensation or “Hazard Pay”: The idea of “hazard pay” originated with non-healthcare employers like Amazon, Albertsons, Kroger, Safeway, and Whole Foods who decided to pay employees an additional $2.00 (or more) per hour as a bonus for working during the crisis.  Unions are now demanding increased pay and/or pay protection for healthcare workers (represented and non-represented). 

Refusal to Work:  While many healthcare employers now offer expanded PTO for employees impacted by COVID-19, in most cases, employees must first exhaust opportunities to be redeployed. Hospitals are now dealing with employees who refuse redeployment as well as a surge of complaints filed with local OSHA offices.

As always, we hope you find this information useful – please stay safe!

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%).

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.