The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently announced the creation of a "new national healthcare union" called "SEIU Healthcare." This major initiative could have significant ramifications on union organizing in healthcare.
Seeking to address the criticism that the SEIU is a "service workers union," this new union will unite all of the SEIU's healthcare members into one healthcare focused union. According to Dennis Rivera, the New York based President of SEIU Local 1199 who will chair the new organization, "this is the expansion of two healthcare divisions - one for hospital workers and one for home health/nursing home workers - into one," with a goal to "unite in one union the 10 million" healthcare workers in the U.S.
While healthcare reform and political action will be a part of this effort, Rivera noted that "the bulk of the work of the new union will be in organizing." The union plans to organize aggressively, but "will expand outside hospitals and long-term care to every place that healthcare workers work, not just hospitals but ambulatory surgery centers, laboratories and clinics."
With an annual budget of $120 million and an estimated 4,000 organizers, the union has pledged to recruit one million new members by 2015. The union also intends to be a formidable political player and is planning to spend $40 million in every two-year election cycle. Rivera pledged to be cooperative with management, saying "we want to be perceived by employers as value-added; we don't want to be the angry union; we don't want the employer to see us as a group that is going to interfere with good patient care, to the contrary."