Unions have increasingly bargained for the common good in recent years, as when teachers negotiate lower class sizes and more school nurses or counselors, or nurses negotiate for improved staffing ratios so they can give every patient the attention they deserve. Union opponents often try to claim that these are really self-interested measures that only benefit workers (as though there’s anything wrong with benefiting workers), not also students and patients. These are of course the same people who always come up with excuses for how larger classes and more patients per nurse are reasonable, as they are hostile not just to workers but to investments in the public good.
All of which is to set up why this study of resident mortality and worker infection rates in union versus nonunion nursing homes in 2020-2021 is interesting and important. As the study, by Adam Dean, Jamie McCallum, Simeon Kimmel, and Atheendar Venkataramani notes, “nursing home residents have accounted for roughly one of every six COVID-19 deaths in the United States,” making nursing homes a major site of mortality. So, how did union and nonunion nursing homes compare? After a lot of data and statistics, “we found that unions were associated with 10.8 percent lower resident COVID-19 mortality rates, as well as 6.8 percent lower worker COVID-19 infection rate.”
Imagine if 1 in 10 of the nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 … hadn’t.