Nursing strikes are not new. They have been occurring as long as nurse unions have been organized. There have been periods of time when there is more activity than others. Following the 911 attacks the number of strikes showed a definitive decline. The Great Recession of 2008 prompted another noticeable decline in Nurse Strikes. As our Nation has adjusted to the current economic climate there has been a strong resurgence of Nurse Union strikes as was noted in May of 2013.
|5/17/2013||Alta Bates||Berkeley, CA|
|5/17/2013||Eden Medical Center||Castro Valley, CA|
|5/17/2013||Sutter Delta Med Center||Antioch, CA|
|5/23/2013||HCA||San Jose, CA|
|5/23/2013||UMass Memorial Medical||Worcester, MA|
|5/24/2013||HCA||San Jose, CA|
Nursing has always been and will continue to be a diverse field of practice. With the advent of travel nurse positions and per diem staffing, autonomy in nursing is one of the hallmarks of the profession.
Along with this comes the ability to pick and choose when and where a nurse wants to work. Hence the incarnation of the “Strike Nurse”. Over the last decade a national database of Nurses who are willing to work strikes has developed. With every strike that occurs national recruiting adds to this database exponentially. The Strike Nurse Database is literally a national group of “hired guns” willing to work for whichever agency has a strike contract moving forward to a deployment.
Across the Nation there are a handful of companies who provide strike staffing services. Some specialize in Nurses only, some provide additional staff and then there are other organizations that provide all classes of personnel as well as strike line security and logistics. Regardless, it is a limited playing field when it comes to labor dispute management. With each deployment all agencies are drawing upon the same pool of personnel to staff these strikes. you will see below how multiple strikes can deplete this workforce.
With Nurses Unions across the nation becoming affiliated with the “NNU” or National Nurses United, the NNU now possesses the ability to impact bargaining nationwide as was illustrated in May. Taking so many facilities out across the nation limited the pool of replacement nurses and negatively impacted some facilities ability to operate. In reviewing the dates as listed above regarding the May strikes you will see the overlap of one strike to another. Considering the minimum length was five days and some even seven days it was not possible to move a workforce from strike to strike but rather it required several work forces deployed to each location. This drastically depleted the readily available labor pool.
Healthcare Organizations who take the time to establish a well working relationship with their strike staffing service provider have the ability to bargain with confidence and most importantly, leverage.
Preparation and flexibility are the key elements required for a healthcare organization to weather a strike and still provide services to their communities. Waiting for a ten day notice of intent to strike from a union is not the time to start preparing. Appropriate planning should begin 6 months in advance of a contract expiration and should really be an ongoing process all of the time. In this way it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel each time.
It is unknown if the situation in May was a coordinated effort by the Nursing union(s) or a perfect storm coincidence, but facilities and their staffing partners need to be aware of the national landscape and willing to adjust their carefully crafted plans at the last minute to increase their attractiveness to the strike nursing pool.
How this will affect healthcare in our country remains to be seen but one thing we can count on is that without appropriate planning the ball is in the unions’ court.
Senior Director Healthcare Services
Huffmaster Crisis Response