Healthcare strikes could be more likely as labor deals expire across US

The potential for strikes at healthcare facilities is elevated as union contracts are set to expire in 2022 and employees prepare to enter a third year on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Bloomberg Law.

The finding comes from an analysis Bloomberg Law did of 318 contract expiration notices submitted to the federal government and 140 contract settlements from the publication's internal database that mention an expiration date this year.

According to the analysis, at least 207,000 healthcare workers are covered by more than 400 contracts set to expire in 2022. Bloomberg Law noted some workers included in the data may have already negotiated new agreements, and that the figure is likely higher because many contract expiration notices for this year have not been filed.  

Healthcare workers nationwide participated in strikes last year, citing concerns about staffing, patient care, working conditions and employee retention. Nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., for example, began a strike March 8, 2021, and voted to ratify a new contract Jan. 3, 2022, officially ending the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history. 

Moving into 2022, similar concerns continue to be on workers' minds amid the latest COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant, Bloomberg Law noted. Additionally, staffing has become even more crucial for healthcare facilities as some workers are leaving their jobs and hospitals see influxes of patients.

All of these issues will likely come into play as healthcare facilities negotiate new contracts for nurses and other workers.

"Healthcare is typically one of the most contentious industries, in terms of impasses and work stoppages during contract negotiations," Bloomberg Law analyst Robert Combs said in the publication's report. "And that's not even taking into account all of the added stressors of working in front-line jobs during the pandemic era. It all could lead to a serious ramping-up of labor tensions in the year ahead."

According to the Bloomberg Law analysis, healthcare systems with major contracts expiring this year include the University of California (14,600 workers), New York City Hospital Alliance (10,000 workers), and Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine (6,100 workers).

Read the full Bloomberg Law report here

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