Concerns over PPE, staffing, and safety drive union labor activity

Client, Client Services, Hospital Staffing

For most of us, 2020 has been a unique year, and this has especially been true for the healthcare industry. Nurses and healthcare workers have endured one of the most challenging times in history and they have taken on more risk in their job duties than ever before. Concerns over safety and adequate staffing levels in the COVID-19 environment are increasingly becoming topics of debate, and many healthcare unions are bringing these issues to the bargaining table.

During past recessionary periods, union activity and labor disputes increased in the years following the recessionary events. After the 2008-2009 mortgage crisis, as the economy began to improve and hospitals returned to pre-recession operations and profitability, the healthcare workers felt left out. They felt as if the sacrifices made during the crisis were left unnoticed. Simultaneously, the hospitals were focused on stabilizing operations and finances after the disruption. This broad discrepancy lead to disagreements at the bargaining table in the past. Now, the added concerns about PPE, safety, and staffing ratios could add fuel to the fire.

  • Hospital strikes and labor actions in 2020 have been centered around nurse safety and PPE. There are inconsistencies from state to state on PPE requirements and nurses are concerned about their safety, while hospitals are focused on meeting their states’ requirement while managing expenses.
  • Several states are in the process of creating laws to implement staffing ratios while hospitals are struggling to balance finances with patient care. Currently, 14 states are in the process of addressing nurse staffing ratios, but California is the only state that stipulates in law and regulations required nurse to patient ratios to be maintained at all times by unit. As the unions in more states attempt to implement ratios, we expect strikes to follow.
  • Past recessions were followed by an increase in union labor activity. After the 2009 recession, there was a surge in strikes from 2010-2012. Hospital census and corresponding revenues had been down, and many hospitals were seeking cost reductions such as adding more cost sharing to health insurance plans. Simultaneously, the unions were starting to see signs of the economy improving and they were trying to make up for lost wages and benefits during the recession. The disconnect was broad, which created a ripe environment for labor activity.

At Nurse Bridge, we are compassionate about the issues affecting the healthcare environment, and we remain focused on helping our hospital customers provide continuity of care and patient satisfaction during challenging times. For more information about our contingency planning and strike staffing services, contact 866-449-3798 or clients@nursebridge.com.


Brian Hall, VP of Business Development

Brian has more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare staffing industry and has been with Medical Solutions since 2003. He is responsible for the business development and financial oversight of several of the company’s staffing solutions, including EMR conversion expertise and labor dispute staffing. He has been honored to have the opportunity to build partnerships with hospital clients nationwide. Brian earned his BS in Health Sciences from the University of Arizona.

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