The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Private Equity Treating Nurses Like Uber

Mar 6, 2023

So-called “private equity” or Wall Street investment firms spend hundreds of millions of dollars to set up or invest in travel nurse staffing agencies. They then push nurses into Uber-driver-like contracts and cut their wages by 25 to 70%. While many travel nurses felt stuck with such deep cuts because they could not find better-paying jobs, as Kaiser Health News reported, these private equity firms expect to extract billions of dollars of profits from such schemes.

After the COVID pandemic started in 2020, millions put off going to the doctor and hospital for non-COVID-related health care. So, the healthcare industry, hospitals, and clinics furloughed many nurses deemed unnecessary, and pushed more work on remaining nurses. This work overload caused, for example, about half of bedside nurses to experience high job-related burnout. About one-third of nurses had already been dissatisfied with poor working conditions before the pandemic started.

As a result, burned-out as well as furloughed nurses started to look for work as “travel” nurses, moving from city to city and working this or that hospital for a few weeks or months, as long as these hospitals paid them better wages with “flexible” work hours.

As it turned out, the pay could be satisfactory, but not the living and working conditions. The hospitals pushed the travel nurses to work long, grueling hours during the contract period. Such work schedules caused tired travel nurses to live close to the hospitals, for example, in hotels, in their vans, or at campgrounds, far away from their families.

Now, the travel nurse staffing agencies backed by the Wall Street investment firms aim to directly engage with hospitals in order to undercut the permanent nurses’ pay and working conditions. As the National Nurses United explains, "If nurses are misclassified as independent contractors through legislation or other corporate schemes, we will lose our federal rights, including the right to a minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, paid sick days, paid family leave, health and safety protections, and discrimination and sexual harassment protections." Soon, private equity firms will also push nurses who have regular jobs at the hospitals into these schemes.

All these schemes are set up to grind down our wages and benefits to make Wall Street bosses even richer. Whose job is next in line? Name it! Every working person, no matter what their qualifications and education, is on this chopping block.