Newswise—WASHINGTON (April 20, 2022)—Residents and workers in unionized care homes have experienced lower death and infection rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study published in the journal finds. Health Affairs April 20. The new study suggests that higher union membership in essential industries could have reduced COVID-19 transmission and averted many deaths.
“By protecting workers during the pandemic, unions are limiting the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and have likely saved the lives of thousands of residents,” said Adam Dean, assistant professor of political science at George University. Washington and study leader. author, says.
The study looked at more than 14,000 union and non-union nursing homes across the continental United States from June 2020 through March 2021, using proprietary union membership data from the Service Employees International Union. The researchers found that workers in unionized care homes were 6.8% less likely to contract COVID-19 than their non-unionized counterparts. The study also found that unionized nursing homes had 10.8% lower resident death rates than non-unionized facilities.
The virus has hit nursing homes across the country since the early stages of the pandemic. Nursing home residents account for one in six deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. More than one million nursing home workers have tested positive for COVID-19. However, less than one in five nursing homes in the United States have unionized staff, while many aged care facilities in right-to-work states do not employ any unionized members. Unionized nursing homes and other essential workplaces are more likely to provide effective personal protective equipment and more paid sick leave. The research team estimates that if all US nursing homes were unionized, up to 8,000 resident deaths and 25,000 employee infections could have been prevented during the 10-month study period.
“Unions are fighting to make care homes safer places to work, with clear benefits for workers as well as the residents they care for,” Dean said.
In addition to Dean, the research team included Jamie McCallum, associate professor at Middlebury College; Simeon Kimmel, assistant professor at Boston University; and Atheendar Venkataramani, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
The paper, “Resident death and worker infection rates from COVID-19 are lower in unionized than nonunion US nursing homes, 2020-21was published online April 20 and will appear in the May 2 issue of Health Affairs.