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Unionized Pa. health care workers find new bargaining strength in the wake of COVID-19

Jason Laughlin, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

Nurses are in high demand, Givan said, and have no trouble finding other health care jobs to pay the bills if a contract dispute turns into a strike, as threatened at Temple.

The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals and SEIU are the two largest nurses' unions in the state, together representing roughly 17,400 registered nurses. There are nearly 238,000 active, licensed registered nurses in the state.

On the coronavirus front lines, Philly nurses also battle supply shortages and tension with employers

Health care worker shortage

The pandemic exacerbated longstanding worker issues in health care, prompting a wave of resignations and retirements that strained an already thin workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated about 275,000 additional nurses will be needed between 2020 and 2030.

A March survey from the American Nurses Foundation found 60% of acute care nurses were burned out, and 75% described themselves as "stressed, frustrated, and exhausted."

 

"The morale among the nurses was very low," said Mary Adamson, president of the Temple University Hospital Nurses Association. "They were very angry going into this campaign."

The same sentiment is propelling a unionization drive at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. Mike Keyasko, a physical therapist, is in the process of organizing 350 hospital technicians, including rehabilitation workers, radiology technicians, and pharmacists.

Before the pandemic, he said, similar efforts fell flat. This year has been different.

"I feel like everything that everybody's been observing in their workday over the past couple years has led people to question: Why we are just accepting this?" Keyasko said.

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