Viewpoint: The case for labor peace agreements

The federal government should step in to help stabilize turbulent healthcare workforce issues by enforcing labor peace agreements between health systems and unions, Gabriel Winant, PhD, and Theresa Brown, PhD, BSN, RN, argue in a May 9 New York Times op-ed.

Although health systems are technically private companies, the authors argue that the government has shaped the healthcare landscape of the U.S. and funds a large part of it through Medicare and Medicaid. Thus, they argue that it is the job of the government to step in and stabilize the healthcare workforce.

One way some states and cities have tried to stabilize the healthcare workforce is adopting labor peace agreements with unions requiring employers and employees to work together to prevent strikes. Some policymakers in Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York City are moving to require Medicaid contractors to guarantee labor peace. 

Drs. Winant and Brown argue that these policies, while unpopular with health systems, represent a way for the government to ensure stability from bitter strikes and high employee turnover. They argue that peace agreements give weight to workers' needs and eliminate disruptive strikes that could have repercussions for both the striking workforce and patients.

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