Healthcare workers have long worn the union label, and stories of strikes by nurses and other healthcare professionals have long filled the pages of Modern Healthcare.
The employees, especially nurses, for the past 25 years have been more or less single-minded in their demands: higher pay, shorter hours, better working conditions and more respect.
Nursing organizations in California have been especially militant, with their campaigns to make patient safety an issue in labor-management disputes eventually helping to enact legislation mandating levels of nurse staffing for hospitals.
"Frontline nurses have felt the brunt of the industry's attempts to cuts costs," says Service Employees International Union spokeswoman Diane Sosne. "Nurses realize they need a collective voice to deal with practice issues and patient advocacy."
Physicians also have turned to unionization. Although an expected surge in organizing among physicians hasn't yet occurred, their numbers have grown, increasing about 12,000 in the past four years to 45,000. The American Medical Association is backing legislation in Congress that would provide antitrust exemptions to allow all doctors to bargain collectively with health plans.