Unionized Nursing Homes Had Fewer COVID-19 Deaths, New Study Finds

GW-led research examined 355 nursing homes in New York

September 11, 2020

Jason Shevrin: [email protected], 202-994-5631
Timothy Pierce: [email protected], 202-994-5647
WASHINGTON (Sept. 10, 2020)—Nursing homes where employees were unionized had a 30% lower COVID-19 mortality rate than those without organized staffs, according to a study released today. Unionized nursing homes also had a 42% decrease in COVID-19 infection rates among residents. 
The research found unionized nursing homes also protected workers better. Facilities with unionized staff were 13.8% more likely to have N95 masks and 7.3% more likely to have eye shields. Labor unions representing health care workers have advocated for access to personal protective equipment and for infection control policies.
A team led by George Washington University professor Adam Dean published its findings, “Mortality Rates From COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes,” in the journal Health Affairs. Dean was joined by Atheendar Venkataramani from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and Simeon Kimmel from the Boston University School of Medicine. 
“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.”
The researchers studied 355 nursing homes in New York state between March 1 and May 31, 2020. They used publicly available COVID-19 mortality data from the New York State Department of Health and gathered proprietary union enrollment data provided by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Communication Workers of America, as well as publicly available data from the New York State Nurses Association.