This month we celebrated Labor Day, a reminder that the labor movement has accomplished many things that have benefited all Americans, including shorter workweeks, the end of child labor, fair(er) wages, widespread employer-based health coverage, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Yet there is a considerable and continual campaign against organized labor in this country. One of the tools of this campaign is questionable research that is offered as “proof” that unions are doing more harm than good.
Earlier this year, IRI Analytics produced an example, a study of the supposed impact of union organizing on hospitals. The researchers asserted that union organizing “directly” and negatively impacts a health care facility’s HCAHPS scores (surveys that measure the patient experience), readmission rates, and employee engagement and satisfaction.
However, there are numerous problems with their conclusions. Most importantly, the study report suggests that all the negative effects found were caused by organizing, when at best it highlighted associations for which there may be many explanations that have nothing to do with union organizing. For instance, a recent Commonwealth Fund issue brief and other analyses have found that readmission rates tend to be higher in urban settings and safety-net hospitals, while patient satisfaction (HCAHPS) tend to be lower in those settings–the same settings that are more likely to have union activity. Socioeconomic determinants of health (including poverty) in those settings are more likely to be driving up readmissions and affecting patient satisfaction than any union organizing.
Of equal concern is the organization conducting the study. One of IRI Analytics’ business lines helps organizations implement strategies to “resist union tactics and successfully counter union organizing campaigns, contract campaigns and corporate campaigns.” Can a company that makes money on undermining unions really be trusted to conduct a fair and impartial study of organizing campaigns? You decide.