Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2019

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Health care:

Taking flight

After nurses jump, SEIU says its employee members haven’t lost power

The union leader representing workers at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals said he doesn’t expect the loss of the nurse group to another union to harm future negotiations.

Until last month at St. Rose’s nurses were members of the Service Employees International Union. After much public wrangling and a vote, the 1,100 nurses became members of the California Nurses Union.

Eddie Burke, executive director of SEIU Nevada, said he expects the loss of the nurses to the other union to have little effect when his union heads for the bargaining table in about three years.

For one, there are typically more non-nurse workers at a hospital, he said. And in the past, there were two groups to bargain for: the nurses and the hospital workers, which could complicate contract negotiations because the nurses have different needs than other hospital workers.

The hospital workers’ four-year contract was renegotiated in October.

Another bonus for the hospital workers’ union: It already has organized workers in 28 hospitals in the same hospital chain in California, where the nurses union represents those nurses, Burke said.

“I can envision next time around, we would obviously be watching what goes on in California or California will be watching what goes on (here),” he said. “There will be a tremendous amount of interaction between our union and our three facilities here in the valley with what goes on with 28 different hospitals in California. We’ll definitely be on top of our game.”

The nurses who left the service union to join the California Nurses Union could benefit as well.

“Ordinarily, highly skilled employees benefit when they are represented by professional associations rather than broadly based unions that represent less skilled workers,” said Michael H. LeRoy, a professor at the School of Labor and Employment Relations and the College of Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Professional associations tend to have better and more current information about labor contracts that are specific to their occupation. Also, their interests are not lumped together — and compromised — with a broad mix of employees.”

Burke said he doesn’t think the union has lost any leverage at the bargaining table.

“We’re going to work together,” he said. “We have this one employer, we clearly have to coordinate some of our actions. I’ve already, since the announcement (of the nurses’ split), had meetings and several phone conferences, had transitional meetings, so I don’t envision that being a problem. Once that cycle rolls around, we’ll be communicating back and forth just as they have always done in California.”

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