Both Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Iowa and Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines have different labor statuses. Mary Greeley is a unionized hospital while Iowa Lutheran is a non-union facility. Despite this distinction, both hospitals share a common priority of providing excellent patient care. However, the presence or absence of unions may result in some variations in working conditions. To gain insight into these differences, I interviewed Mrs. Lorna Hamilton, the Emergency/Security Management Coordinator at Mary Greeley, and Mr. Jeffrey L. Bebensee, the Security Manager at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. Both managers demonstrated knowledge about how labor unions impact their respective workplaces.
Lorna, a member of the management team at the Mary Greeley Medical Center, has been with the hospital for 14 years. The hospital became unionized in 1986 after Mary Greeley nurses felt that their requests for pay raises and staffing requirements were not being taken seriously by the management. Since then, there have been notable enhancements in employee compensation and benefits, as well as regulations regarding minimum nurse staffing levels in various departments.
The union at Mary Greeley’s aims to enhance the safety of nurses in the workplace. At Iowa Lutheran Hospital, Jeff, who has been with the hospital for 24 years, expresses his negative view of unions as the hospital has never had a union during his time there. Despite not having a union, Jeff acknowledges that working conditions, pay, and benefits are comparable to those in a hospital with a union. However, he perceives a rift between nurses and employees regarding management-employee dynamics.
Whether a union exists or not, the speaker stated that separation may be more likely in a non-union facility. This is because management is not obligated to treat employees fairly and can terminate them without any procedure. At Mary Greeley’s, the relationship between nurses and management is sometimes strained but generally friendly. Lorna acknowledges that daily operations run smoothly but grievances or employee terminations often create tension and caution among everyone involved.
Management commonly labels the union nurses as “the enemy,” assuming that the nurses reciprocate this sentiment. Lorna characterizes this as a sense of “us versus them” when facing challenging circumstances. Nonetheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that these occurrences are infrequent. Lorna recognizes that the usual work environment is generally amicable, partly thanks to the union’s endeavors. The union has advocated for equitable workloads and secure conditions, contributing to a more hospitable workplace.
At Iowa Lutheran Hospital, the working conditions are similar to those in any other hospital. The atmosphere is friendly and there is enough staff. Jeff mentioned that if there is ever a complaint, it remains between the employee and the manager and does not go beyond that. If the manager fails to solve an employee’s issue satisfactorily, it is escalated to the next supervisor, without involving other employees. Additionally, at Jeff’s hospital, employees’ pay information is kept confidential, and any problems related to the work environment are addressed discreetly.
Lorna made no comment regarding the impact of unions on non-union companies. In contrast, Jeff made multiple observations, asserting that “The presence of unions has an effect as substantial as an actual union.” The existence of unions in neighboring hospitals has led to increased wages and benefits for nurses at non-union hospitals. The introduction of unions to local hospitals has positively affected all employees in the area.
The management at these facilities is concerned enough about the union to provide employees with the benefits of having a union, but without empowering the union. Although the nurses from Iowa Lutheran Hospital have not attempted to unionize, there have been occasional rumors in the past. As I mentioned earlier, the management would comply with various reasonable requests from the nurses if they were to unionize in order to prevent the union from entering the hospital. Sources: Unionized hospital. Emergency/Security Management Coordinator
Mary Greeley Medical Center is a non-union hospital. Jeffrey L. Bebensee, the Security Manager at Iowa Lutheran Hospital, can be contacted at (515) 263-5612.