Union Hospital Struggle


LA Labor 411 blog: Voices of Wisdom
“Employers and employees alike have learned that in union there is strength, that a coordination of individual effort means an elimination of waste, a bettering of living conditions, and is in fact, the father of prosperity”.                                  -Franklin D. Roosevelt

After working on Labor 411 all summer and seeing all the hospitals that were unionized in the LA area, I noticed that the hospital I volunteer at is non-union. I decided to ask one of the nurses if the hospital had ever tried to unionize. My simple yes or no question turned into a long, emotional story.

Apparently a few years ago, a union tried to come into the hospital and organize the workers. The hospital took every step to insure that the union didn’t come in. They spent over $1 million on a union busting company who would hold mandatory meetings about why unions were bad and all the negative aspects associated with them. The nurse told me that the union busters and the hospital brainwashed all the immigrant employees into thinking that if they voted in the union, they would lose their jobs.  In the end, the union lost by a very narrow percentage.

After the union election, the ER nurses that had first asked the union to come in, one by one started losing their jobs so that within two years, the ER had an entirely new staff.  When the ER doctors’ contract came up for its annual renewal, the hospital decided not to renew it because the ER doctors had supported unionization. The nurse said that these doctors were some of the best in the LA area, so I couldn’t understand why they would let them go for a difference in opinion. 

The nurse’s story really infuriated me. Why would the hospital spend over $1 million dollars on a union buster rather than on their workers or even back into the hospital? Many studies have shown that union workers vs. their non-union counterparts are happier. Wouldn’t a workplace, especially a hospital where patients’ lives are dependent on the staff, want their employees to be happier? Isn’t that a basic economic principal: happier workers produce better products and services?

President Roosevelt in his quote reminds us about the goodness of unions, all the positive things unions bring to America. When corporations hear the word union, they immediately think about how much less money will go into their pockets and how much more money will go to the workers. But, this shouldn’t be the case. Corporations should realize that unionized workers will produce better products and services and then in-turn, bring more prosperity to the workplace. This is a positive, never-ending cycle.

Although the union wasn’t successful this time, Fredrick Douglass reminds us that “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”. So hopefully, the hospital employees have struggled enough so the next time they will convince their fellow workers of the value of a union and see positive progress and unionize!  

Rachelle Jacoby
LA Labor 411, Project Manager-Web

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