Will Nursing Home Employee Union Lobby Against Patient Rights?

Those of us who sue nursing homes and assisted living facilities for elder abuse and neglect of residents know how hard it is to uncover the evidence needed to meet our burdens of proof (which are higher than the typical case). Whether it’s proving a systemic problem of understaffing, ignoring resident fall risks, or establishing false charting, the victims of abuse or neglect always face tremendous hurdles in proving they were neglected. In reality, it’s usually the family trying to prove the wrongdoing since the victim is frequently dead because of the abuse or neglect.

What we certainly don’t need is nursing home caregivers, through their union representatives, colluding with industry trade groups to lobby against the rights of nursing home residents all in the name of job security and wages. This disturbing article in the San Francisco Weekly suggests that for the Service Employees International Union this might be a goal.

According to the article, the two-million-member SEIU, the country’s largest union, would offer political support for nursing home industry goals of limiting patients’ or families’ right to sue for abuse and neglect in exchange for the right to organize nursing home employees in a number of California nursing facilities. This collaboration has led to a division within union ranks, and a growing dispute between SEIU’s California healthcare affiliate and the national union office.

Whatever the outcome of this dispute, California nursing home abuse laws should not be weakened, and unionized caregivers should not be encouraged to overlook or ignore cases of neglect because of some real or perceived partnership with the nursing home industry. If anything, action should be taken to strengthen the rights of the elderly and dependent adults who find themselves in a nursing home, and whose very survival depends on the competency and commitment of those who provide daily care.

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