For nearly two years, OPEIU health care professionals have been on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enduring long hours and mandatory overtime — often without extra compensation — they’ve put their physical and mental health on the line to provide the best patient care possible.
They’ve rightly been called heroes, yet still most of these brave essential workers have not received the compensation for their service they deserve. Instead, they’ve been short-staffed, overworked and underpaid.
Through many surges leaving hospitals at their breaking points, health care workers have been risking their lives and the lives of their families to provide quality, compassionate care to their patients. Most of them have not received compensation for their service and sacrifice.
Gallup polling released in September shows Americans’ approval of labor unions is at its
highest point since 1965, with 68 percent reporting a favorable view of organized labor.
The survey, conducted in mid-August, also showed a staggering 77 percent of those age
18–34 have a favorable opinion, echoing the findings of surveys conducted earlier this
year by Pew suggesting most Americans, especially younger ones, would vote to join a
union if given the opportunity.
Many are choosing to organize with OPEIU, looking to improve their working conditions,
give voice to marginalized workers and address issues of diversity and inclusion in the
Nurses employed at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu and represented by the Hawai'i Nurses' Association/OPEIU Local 50 stood together in solidarity and ratified a new contract that provides a $1,000 signing bonus, a certification bonus, a certification differential commencing in the second year, significant shift differential increases and an 8 percent wage increase during the life of three-year agreement.
“This is one of the best contracts we’ve achieved in a very long time, with no givebacks and significant improvements, and it was all done just prior to the worst COVID-19 surge we’ve experienced throughout the pandemic,” said Local 50 President Dan Ross, who also serves as an OPEIU vice president. “Our hospitals and our nurses are being pushed to their limits, with politicians and hospitals showing more concern for profits than people, but our union fights on and our membership remains united.”
The AFL-CIO Executive Council elected Liz Shuler, the former secretary-treasurer and a longtime trade unionist, to serve as president of the federation of 56 unions and 12.5 million members. Shuler is the first woman to hold the office in the history of the labor federation. The Executive Council, of which OPEIU President Richard Lanigan is a member representing OPEIU, held the vote Aug. 20, following the death of Richard Trumka.
The Executive Council also elected United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Fred Redmond to succeed Shuler as secretary-treasurer, the first African American to hold the office. Tefere Gebre will continue as executive vice president, rounding out the most diverse team of officers ever to lead the AFL-CIO.
With more than 90 percent support, Local 40 nurses employed at McLaren Macomb hospital avoided a potential strike and ratified an agreement that increases nurse-to-patient staffing ratios throughout the hospital and provides an average 15.5 percent wage increase with $4,000 appreciation and retention bonuses for each nurse.
The unit of nearly 600 registered nurses began bargaining Feb. 1 with the hospital, located in Mount Clemens, Michigan. “A top issue the nurses wanted addressed was improved staffing to ensure quality, safe patient care,” Local 40 President Jeff Morawski said. “Morale in the hospital needs to be improved by seeing an increase
in recruitment and retention of ancillary staff, as well as recognition and appreciation of the tireless effort employees made during the past year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic.”