Do Unions Benefit Or Harm Healthcare?

healthcare union pros cons industry impact of unionization

When it comes to the unionization of workers, most people think of factory workers or those in transportation. Believe it or not, unions actually play a significant role in healthcare as well. While some wholeheartedly support the work of healthcare unions, others are less amenable to these groups. 

Gaining a deeper understanding of the pros and cons associated with healthcare unions can provide one with a more nuanced perspective of the healthcare industry and how it functions. 

Here are the ways that unions can benefit and harm the healthcare industry. 

The Benefits Of Unions In Healthcare 

Unions have played an important part in making many beneficial changes in specific healthcare organizations and the healthcare industry as a whole. Understanding how healthcare unions have made beneficial changes in healthcare can provide one with more context to inform a stance on unionization in the field. 

Here are some critical ways that unions can benefit the field of healthcare. 

Ensuring Good Wages And Benefits 

As is the case with unions in other industries, one of the main issues that healthcare unions aim to tackle is that of fair wages and compensation for workers. By leveraging their ability to strike and disrupt processes in medical institutions, healthcare unions are able to negotiate with organizations to ensure that unionized healthcare workers are receiving the proper amount of pay. 

As a result of this negotiating power, unionized healthcare workers typically make a higher salary than their non-unionized counterparts. In addition to higher wages, healthcare unions typically apply pressure on healthcare organizations to ensure that unionized healthcare workers are guaranteed periodic raises and better benefits as well. 

While healthcare organizations may not like having to negotiate with unions, coming to agreements with unions that benefit healthcare workers can be advantageous to them too. This is because when workers are happy, they will typically stay with a particular employer longer. For employers, this means saving money on the cost of finding and onboarding new employees to fill certain positions. 

As one can imagine, being able to keep healthcare employees and organizations mutually content is a benefit to the field of healthcare. This is one of several reasons that an argument can be made that healthcare organizations are a benefit for healthcare as a whole. 

Ensuring Proper Safety Precautions 

Keeping healthcare organizations accountable when it comes to worker safety is another beneficial aspect of healthcare unions. Many may be surprised to find out that nursing unions actually played a significant role in ensuring that nurses dealing with COVID-19 patients were provided with the proper personal protective equipment. 

This example highlights the profound and beneficial impacts that healthcare unions can have on the field of healthcare. In essence, they are able to call healthcare organizations out when they are not looking out for their employees and pressure them to make the necessary changes. 

As is the case with other industries, no employees enjoy working in an unsafe environment that could potentially harm them. As such, it makes sense that having healthcare unions working to make healthcare settings safer ultimately benefits the field of healthcare along with the healthcare workers who work within this system. 

The Cons Of Unions In Healthcare 

While it is true that unions can have an undeniably beneficial impact on some aspects of healthcare, there are also cons to these organizations having such power in the field. Understanding the downside of unionization in the healthcare industry will give one a more objective view of why some individuals are against unionization. 

Here are some significant ways that unions can harm the healthcare industry. 

Unions Charge Workers To Join And May Create Tense Working Environments 

While there may be significant benefits to joining a healthcare union as a worker, these benefits don’t come for free. Healthcare unions typically charge unionized workers an upfront fee to join along with a recurring monthly fee for the remainder of the time they are in the union. 

These costs are one of the main barriers to healthcare workers joining unions. In addition, While it may not seem like a big deal on the surface, having both unionized and non-unionized healthcare workers working together in the same organizations can spell trouble. 

Though diversity in healthcare is typically a welcome phenomenon, these sorts of differences can be extremely detrimental in any organization. Though some changes that healthcare unions advocate for are able to benefit all workers, such as organizations providing PPE equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, others do not, such as negotiating higher wages. This can cause discord within organizations and tension between various workers receiving different forms of compensation. 

The power that unions have can be a double-edged sword. While they can help unionized workers in keen ways, they can also make some working environments toxic as a result of creating differing factions and attitudes within some organizations. 

Unions May Force Workers To Strike 

While unions have the power to make beneficial changes due to their ability to strike, the downside to this power is that, sometimes, they will force unionized workers to go on strike. This typically means that workers will have to forego their wages for an extended period of time, regardless of their stance on the situation. 

As one can imagine, it can be disconcerting and harmful to healthcare workers to have to give up their wages at certain points in time. In addition, these strikes can harm healthcare institutions due to a lack of workers, potentially impacting the level of care that patients receive. 

While it is important that healthcare workers are compensated fairly, the main mission of the healthcare industry is to provide people with medical care. When it comes to strikes, unions can make it far more difficult for healthcare institutions and organizations to achieve this aim. 

This ability to lessen the quality of care that patients receive as a bargaining tactic is one of the main reasons that some individuals view unions as harmful in the healthcare space. 

Unions Have A Power That Can Benefit And Harm Healthcare 

When it comes to deciding whether unions benefit or harm the healthcare industry, it is hard to be fully committed to one side or the other. Answers may change depending on which unions are being talked about and which tactics they use. What no one can argue is the fact that unions can be powerful. As with all power, this can be tremendously beneficial or devastatingly harmful depending on how it is used.

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