Latest in Medical Field to Unionize Labor:
Vote to create guild is effort to gain bargaining clout with HMO's.
It also reflects cultural shift within AFL-CIO.
Nancy Rivera Brooks
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
with permission by the L.A. Times – www.latimes.com/business
Talk about turning
points: Acupuncturists in California are forming a union and affiliating
with the AFL-CIO.
7,500 California acupuncturists voted Friday to create the National Guild
for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. This is the latest effort by medical
personnel to gain bargaining clout with tightfisted managed-care organizations
and build political muscle.
The new guild, many
of whose members are Asian, also signals a continuing cultural shift within
the ALF-CIO, which is recruiting more minorities and immigrants.
About half the nation’s
15,000 acupuncturists practice in California. Acupuncturists, who are
licensed in this and 40 other states, tend to be fiercely independent
practitioners of an ancient system of diagnosing and treating illness,
frequently using thin needles to stimulate and adjust energy flows throughout
The OPEIU, the Service
Employees International Union and other labor groups have been successful
in organizing salaried doctors and other medical professionals in recent
years, tapping into frustration with managed-care companies and their
The OPEIU is targeting
independent contractors in medicine and other professions, said Alan Elnick,
international representative with the OPEIU. A growing percentage of the
U.S. work force is composed of independent contractors, he said.
Acupuncture is treated
differently in different states, and the guild wants to tackle licensing
and other issues across the country.
About 25 professional
acupuncture associations in California voted Friday to form the guild,
which acupuncturists would join though professional associations and schools
rather than individually, Ted Priebe said. The associations now are reviewing
bylaws with members and holding ratification votes. Other associations
around the country will be able to affiliate with the guild, Priebe said.
to one of the largest groups, the 900-member California State Oriental
Medical Assn., will discuss joining the guild this month but probably
won’t vote on the bylaws until August, said San Francisco acupuncturist
Benjamin Dierauf, president of the organization.
“I’m very excited
about it. I think there is a lot of potential in making a strong alliance
politically and economically so that we can provide quality health care”
to more consumers, Dierauf said.
This article was taken
from the L.A. Times Business section, published June 8, 2000.