Making a Difference for Health

Unions work to keep us healthy. Healthcare workers’ unions make clinics and hospitals safer, more efficient, and more responsive to patient needs. And the labor movement is out in front in the campaign for affordable, quality health care for all. Unions:

Improve quality of patient care.

  • Patients suffering heart attacks have a 5.5% greater chance of survival if their nurses are union members.1
  • Since Kaiser Permanente established its labor-management partnership, the integrated healthcare organization has experienced higher patient satisfaction and better performance.

Enforce adequate hospital staffing levels. Studies show that surgical patients are more likely to die when nurse staffing levels are low,2 but higher nurse staffing is associated with shorter hospital stays3 and fewer patient complications.4 Nurses and their unions ensure higher staffing levels by bargaining for minimum staffing ratios and supporting nurse-patient ratio legislation at the state and federal level.

Keep patients safe by supporting prohibitions on mandatory overtime for healthcare professionals. Among nurses, long shifts and working overtime at the end of a shift coincide with an increased rate of errors such as administering the wrong medication or dosage.5

Address the nation’s nursing shortage. The support and better working conditions that unions provide ensure that more trained nurses remain in the profession.

Improve communication at hospitals and ease the process of implementing new hospital practices through labor-management committees.6

Lead the fight for quality, affordable healthcare for all. Unions educate voters, lobby Congress, and urge companies with union contracts to support affordable, quality health care.

Read more:

  • Unions Making a Difference for Everyone
  • Unions Making a Difference for Business
  • Unions Making a Difference for Families
  • Unions Making a Difference for the Environment
  • Unions Making a Difference for Equality
  • Citations:

    1. Michael Ash and Jean Ann Seago, “The Effect of Registered Nurses' Unions on Heart-Attack Mortality,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 57.3: 422-442.
    2. Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, “Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 22, 2002.
    3. Jack Needleman, PhD, Peter Buerhaus, PhD, RN, Nurse Staffing and Patient Outcomes in Hospitals, Harvard School of Public Health, 2001.
    4. Jack Needleman, PhD, Peter Buerhaus, PhD, RN, et al, “Nurse Staffing Nurse-Staffing Levels and Quality of Care in Hospitals,” The New England Journal of Medicine, May 30, 2002.
    5. Ann E. Rogers, et al, “The Working Hours Of Hospital Staff Nurses And Patient Safety,” Health Affairs, 23.4 (Jul/Aug2004): 202-212.
    6. Gil Preuss,“Committing to Care: Labor-Management Cooperation and Hospital Restructuring, Economic Policy Institute, 1998.