A new study finds that having a unionized workforce at a nursing home greatly reduces the likelihood that someone will die from COVID-19.
There was a 30% relative decrease in the COVID-19 mortality rate for residents in nursing homes with unionized workers than in other nursing homes, according to the study, which examined data from 355 nursing homes in New York from March 1 through May 31.
It was completed by researchers at George Washington University, the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and the Boston University School of Medicine. The authors used publicly available data on nursing home deaths in New York and proprietary data from labor unions to determine union representation.
“Our results suggest that unions may have reduced COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents by successfully demanding PPE for health care workers,” the authors conclude. “Health care worker unionization may play an important role in ensuring access to appropriate PPE and implementing infection control policies that protect vulnerable nursing home residents.”
In the U.S., there have been 216,219 confirmed and 129,338 suspected cases of COVID-19 and 53,196 deaths as of Aug. 30, according to the latest CMS data. Nationally, there have been 6.4 million COVID-19 cases and 191,353 deaths as of Sept. 11, according to CDC data.
Across the country, unionized healthcare workers have protested and gone on strike throughout the pandemic to demand PPE, safer conditions and better staffing ratios. More than 800 nurses at the University of Illinois who are represented by the Illinois Nurses Association are set to go on strike Sept. 12 over safe patient limits.
“We are a nursing staff who stood up, fought and won hazard pay and universal masking, the first nursing staff in the country to do so. Now, we’re fighting for safe patient limits,” Paul Pater, a registered nurse and an INA board member, said in a prepared statement about the strike.
The study found that unionized nursing homes had a 13.8% relative increase in access to N-95 masks, a 7.3% relative increase in access to eye shields and a 42% relative decrease in COVID-19 infection rate among residents.