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AFL-CIO Plans to Continue Aggressive Organizing Agenda in 2001

By Roger P. Gilson Jr.
  • April 6, 2001

Health care employers are likely to continue to feel the heat of an aggressive organizing agenda under the mandate of the AFL-CIO to union affiliates to pull out the stops on building the membership ranks. According to Mark Splain, AFL-CIO Director of Organizing, the AFL-CIO added only 350,000 members in 2000, compared with 600,000 the year before. "The numbers are not where they should be," he concluded. President John J. Sweeney said member unions will work to add 700,000 new members this year and a million a year starting in 2002.

To reach this goal, the AFL-CIO plans to help affiliates make structural changes needed to support more, better and faster organizing; to provide research to aid affiliates with industry and regional targeting and direct assistance in strategically important campaigns; and to help affiliates recruit and train effective organizers. Organizing will focus on a few key strategies, some of which have demonstrated success in the past, such as the "Voice at Work" campaign, which highlights and publicizes employer interference in organizing campaigns and involves community activists, religious leaders and elected officials. A geographic organizing focus for the AFL-CIO will be the southern states, such as Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Kentucky, where President Sweeney has allocated approximately $1 million for 2001 startup campaigns. The Federation also plans to expand its Union Summer and Seminary Summer programs, where college and seminary students are paid a weekly stipend to assist with organizing drives. New for 2001 will be a "Law Student Union Summer" program to assist with campaigns where there is "massive litigation." In past years, the Union Summer program has targeted nursing homes for surprise organizing blitzes.

Recent union successes in organizing health care workers include wins among several hundred employees at mental health agencies in Illinois and Ohio (AFSCME). In Massachusetts, nurses, counselors, nutritionists and other community health workers at a health care system voted in favor of the SEIU and won a pledge of neutrality with the assistance of the mayor and a key facility benefactor. Nearly 600 physicians at two New York City hospitals joined SEIU Local 1957/ Committee of Interns and Residents; 43 registered nurses in Arizona voted to join AFSCME's Federation of Physicians & Dentists/NUHHCE; and 40 home health nurses in San Diego voted to join the United Nurses Association of California/AFSCME.

This is just a sampling of the organizing results among health care employees within the past several months. To remain union-free, health care employers must be prepared to respond to the early warning signs of organizing with management staff trained to spot and respond quickly, lawfully and effectively. Early action is critical; once union activity has begun, it already may be too late.

©2001 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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