The last several decades have been a time of almost steady decline for union membership in the healthcare industry. Just 6.8% of healthcare and social assistance industry workers belonged to a union in 2019.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Because of this decline, unions have been trying harder than ever to gain new dues paying members. Union organizing teams and in-house employee organizers have been known to use nursing concerns such as patient care and staffing ratios just to get their foot in the door. Once there, they may make highly persuasive and unrealistic promises with no guarantees –all in an effort to gain new members.
The SEIU has increased its membership by absorbing smaller unions and recruiting members in other industries, like education. Over the years, the SEIU has inflated membership numbers by 400,000 members - from mergers alone.
The SEIU has also raided other unions for members, such as UNITE HERE and the CNA. Such aggressive raiding has caused a number of labor leaders to speak out against the SEIU. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee called out the SEIU for "poaching" UNITE HERE and for engaging in "piracy on the high seas of organized labor."
The SEIU seems to have a problem holding on to its members. After years of struggle against the SEIU, 100,000 members left to form the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).
What's more, since 2010, the SEIU has been involved in 534 petitions for decertification - petitions made by union members who wanted to vote out the union. And how many did they win? Just 115 - 21.5%. Not a good sign for the SEIU.
Source: Bureau of National Affairs (BNA PLUS)
Unions haven't been very lucky when it comes to winning elections, so now they're trying a different route - a political route. They're spending millions of dollars each year to change the law, hoping to make it easier for unions to organize employees.
Since 2014, the SEIU has spent more than $250 million on political causes.
And where's this money coming from? Part of it is being funded by the dues and fees the SEIU collects from its members - who may not know or agree with how their money is being spent.
Source: 2014-2019 SEIU LM-2 Reports