New York City nurses and other unionized health care workers in the Big Apple are threatening to go on strike because they're sick of hospitals shifting patients towards cost-saving clinics where the employees have "substandard, non-union jobs."
The nurses say if their leaders and hospital officials don't reach an agreement by July 31, they will stage a one-day strike "to send a message that they want to keep the city's heath-care industry unionized."
The union's main complaint about hospitals shifting services to outpatient clinics is that it robs the group of its influence. The union wants hospitals to agree not to prevent outpatient clinic workers from forming unions and have a process in place to unionize workers at these clinics.
But hospital officials are not loving this idea because one way clinics save money (And, therefore, are able to pass those savings on to consumers and taxpayers) is by keeping labor costs down.
Hospital representatives point out that they need to compete with clinics that employ non-union workers and aren't affiliated with hospitals.
In fact, shifting heath care away from the more costly emergency rooms and hospital wards is a measure the Affordable Care Act has pushed to curb exorbitant medical care costs.
And lucky for dollar-conscious consumers who like choice in their health care decisions, outpatient clinics are growing:
Since 2004, New York state's outpatient workforce increased 24%, compared with a 7% increase in hospital employment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Nationally, outpatient employment has increased 46% since 2004, compared with 11% for hospitals.
If the strike comes to fruition, it will be the first time the group has walked off the job in at least two decades.