Nearly 10,000 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) workers at 19 Florida-based HCA hospitals this week approved "landmark agreements," highlighting a recent surge in health care union activity, the Miami Herald reports.
According to Monica Russo, regional director for SEIU Local 1199, the new HCA contracts include provisions that remove salary caps and create labor-management committees, which will discuss hospital issues like staffing levels and patient safety. HCA spokesperson Nicole Baxter says the hospitals are "pleased with the outcome" of the new contracts.
SEIU's Russo says the union "has been working pretty hard" across the last 12 months and has organized at 18 Florida hospitals, including various HCA and Tenet Healthcare facilities. For example, workers at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach recently voted for SEIU representation, while employees at Hialeah-based Palmetto General voted to be represented by SEIU and the National Nurses Organizing Committee, the Herald reports.
In addition to Florida, hospitals in Kansas City and Texas have experienced increased union activity in the past year, according to Roger King, a labor lawyer with Jones Day. However, he notes that increased activity does not necessarily indicate dissatisfaction with employers, but potential concern about the "tremendous financial pressures" hospitals are facing (Dorschner, Herald, 12/7; Peters Smith, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/7).