Healthcare unions gear up to fight potential cuts, layoffs

As the state and federal governments pressure the healthcare sector to cut costs, healthcare workers are often collateral damage, according to the Associated Press.

For example, in upstate New York, where the hospital job market has historically been strong, workers' jobs are increasingly in jeopardy. Eastern Niagara Hospital in Buffalo ended inpatient services at its Newfane location last week, putting 60 full-time employees' jobs at risk, according to the article. Although Buffalo Niagara has seen steady growth in healthcare jobs even as the broader job market struggles, cutting healthcare spending could put that growth at risk, prompting private-sector healthcare unions to push back against the prospect of cuts.

"I think our members are feeling a greater amount of pressure on the job. The work is getting more difficult, and the fight to improve wages and benefits is more challenging year in and year out," Todd P. Hobler, vice president of Local 1199, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers East, told thAP.

Meanwhile, in California, workers last week picketed a proposal that would cut about 120 workers at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, cuts that CEO Pete Delgado defended as necessary "belt-tightening" in response to the Affordable Care Act, according to the Monterey Herald.

And in August, the New York State Nurses Association won a major victory when a court issued a temporary stay against Long Island College Hospital's transfer of emergency services to NYU Langone Medical Center, according to Crain's New York Business.

Workers at long-term care facilities in the region face similar uncertainty as more of these organizations close or transfer their ownership to private ownership. Five not-for-profit facilities have closed in the region in the last five years, according to the article, and outside Erie County, many county governments sell their own long-term care facilities to private companies, which often try to re-open the existing union contract upon taking ownership, according to the AP.

A June article in The Economist argued nurses' struggles with layoff threats and anti-union activity make them analogous to auto workers in the 20th century, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the AP article
- here's the Herald article
- read the Crain's article