Online Program

Role of Labor Union Contracts in Protecting Public Health

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jennifer Hagedorn, MPH, Health Services- Community Oriented Public Health Practice, University of Washington- School of Public Health, Woodinville, WA
Amy Hagopian, PhD, Department of Health Services and Dept. of Global Health; Director, Community Oriented Public Health Practice MPH program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Nicole Vallestero Keenan, MSW, Puget Sound Sage, Seattle
Background: Labor union contracts are beneficial to the health and working conditions of individual workers. They also indirectly raise standards of employment for workers in non-union jobs.

Methods: We created an abstraction tool to identify health-related elements in six union contracts from a variety of industries. After enumerating the contract-protected benefits and working conditions, we interviewed union organizers and members to learn how these contract elements are utilized in practice to promote health.

Results: Labor union contracts promote health by creating higher standards for wages, medical and dental benefits, paid time off for sick leave and vacations, a limitation on working hours (especially number of hours in a row one must work, and breaks between shift changes), protections from workplace hazards and other factors associated with general well-being.  Labor unions also promote well-being by encouraging democratic participation and creating a sense of community among workers.

Conclusion: Historically, labor unions have used officially-negotiated contracts with employers as their primary tool to improve the working conditions of their members. The purpose of our research is to illustrate to public health jurisdictions at the state and local level how labor unions might be allies in promoting public health. Unions might also welcome public health departments as strategic partners in their organizing work. As labor union membership density has declined unions have looked to non-contractual ways to mobilize social movements to improve working conditions, such as minimum wage campaigns.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Occupational health and safety
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe elements of a labor union contract which promote public health. Illustrate the benefit of labor union contracts which extend to the families and communities of union members. Demonstrate the potential for collaboration between labor unions and public health entities.

Keyword(s): Labor, Community-Based Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the principal investigator for this project, working in coordination with my academic adviser and a community-based organization.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.