Obama Win Emboldens Unions

12/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mike Colias Crain's Chicago Business

Unions are planning aggressive organizing drives at Chicago-area hospitals in the wake of Tuesday's election of Barack Obama, a close ally of organized labor.

The Chicago hospital market has been a tough one for unions to crack -- less than 10% of hospital workers in the city and suburbs are union members, one of the lowest rates among large U.S. cities. But local hospitals would be fertile ground for union campaigns under a measure championed by Mr. Obama that would make it easier for unions to sign up new members.

"The hospitals here are a huge target," says Christopher Cimino, a Chicago-based labor consultant who works with hospitals. "They're worried."

Mr. Obama is co-sponsor of a bill that would require employers to recognize unions if a majority of employees sign "union-authorization" cards, eliminating the current secret-ballot process. The House passed the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007, but Senate Republicans blocked the bill. It faced a certain veto from President George W. Bush.