Colorado UCHealth workers seek to unionize

A group of workers at Aurora, Colo.-based UCHealth are attempting to form a union for hospital employees.

The workers made the announcement in a Dec. 15 news release, citing concerns about staffing levels and workplace safety.

UCHealth is a nonprofit, independent public hospital authority, and workers at UCHealth are considered quasi-public employees. This means they cannot hold a union election like private businesses can, or bargain, according to Colorado Public Radio.

The workers said UCHealth Workers United, part of the Communications Workers of America Local 7799, instead will organize members from all job titles and push for worker's rights, systemic change and a voice at work to improve patient care.

A healthcare technician at UCHealth stated in the news release, "We need to have the working conditions that allow us to bring the best energies to the bedside. Being able to bring our best selves to the bedside means better care for the community and more efficiently combating this pandemic. We are all in this together."

Another UCHealth Workers United supporter said, "Staffing is always a problem. The decisions that have set us up to be understaffed were made before the pandemic to maximize profit and operating margins. It is not the best way to run a healthcare system."

The supporters' comments, which are anonymous to protect them from potential retribution from their employer, come as COVID-19 is raging across the U.S. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, UCHealth spokesperson Dan Weaver said UCHealth values its more than 25,000 employees, and supporting and protecting them has been a top priority during the pandemic. 

"UCHealth did not furlough or lay off anyone during the pandemic, and we continued to pay our staff members their full salary," the statement said. "UCHealth has always been able to provide adequate PPE and to protect those who are caring for patients with COVID-19. Right now, UCHealth is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to thousands of our healthcare workers including our front-line nurses who are caring for patients with COVID-19."

He said UCHealth also offers employees a highly competitive compensation package that includes an annual performance bonus and an annual pay increase.

Regarding staffing, he said staffing levels at UCHealth are similar to those of most U.S. hospitals during the surge, and the health system has redeployed many workers from other areas and hired traveler nurses to address staffing needs. 

 

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