UCHealth Employees Announce Plans To Unionize

Dan Boyce/CPR News
UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs shortly after a temporary lockdown on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019.

Updated 12/16 — 11:44 a.m.

A group of UCHealth employees announced an attempt to start a union after the pandemic laid bare hospital practices that they say prioritize money over employees and patients alike.

UCHealth is a not-for-profit company, and its employees are considered a type of public employee, which means they can't hold an election to unionize like other private businesses. UCHealth Workers United (UCHWU) is part of the Communications Workers of America Local 7799, a chapter that started in Colorado earlier this year.

CWA represents tens of thousands of nurses and health care workers across the country and was involved in unionization efforts at Denver Health.

The union will organize members beyond just nursing staff and aims to advocate for worker’s rights, systemic change and a voice for patients.

Sandra Parker-Murray, a member of the recently formed Community-Worker Alliance for a Healthier Colorado and a CWA activist said unionizing is important for employees, but it's also important for the community.

"They are the ones who have to go to these hospitals and have to have this care, and so they want to make sure their family member is safe, protected and taken care of," she said. "During the pandemic they can't be there, so they have to be able to trust that the health care workers have what they need to provide the expert care that their family member deserves."

In a statement from Dan Weaver, a spokesperson for the hospital, he said employees are the most important part of the health care system and that supporting and protecting them during the pandemic has been the hospitals priority.

"UCHealth did not furlough or lay off anyone during the pandemic, and we continued to pay our staff members their full salary," the statement said. "UCHealth has always been able to provide adequate PPE and to protect those who are caring for patients with COVID-19."

He said that all hospitals are focused on staffing during the pandemic and UCHealth's staffing levels are similar to most hospitals during this time. They've moved staff around and brought in travel nurses to accommodate staffing needs.

UCHealth paid out an annual performance bonus in October 2020, and also issued an annual pay increase to all employees on Nov. 29, UCHealth said in a statement.

"Together with our fully-funded pension plan and other retirement benefits, UCHealth’s total compensation package is highly competitive."