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North Philadelphia Health System

nphs_100.jpg Providing workers a free and fair choice to join a union has fostered a collaborative partnership with healthcare employees that translates into high-quality patient care.

In Partnership With: AFSCME, SEIU

Quality patient care begins with democracy in the workplace

At a Glance

North Philadelphia Health System (NPHS) provides services to one of the most underserved communities in the area through its facilities, Girard Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital.  NPHS is also a major employer and economic anchor in North Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, PA



Union Employees
875 healthcare professionals and counselors

Total Employees

Annual Revenues
$110 million

38 locations


25,000 adults and children

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Girard Medical Center have a lengthy history of service to one of the most underserved neighborhoods of Philadelphia.  Employees at both facilities are longtime union members, dating back to the 1970s when they first joined the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  When the two hospitals joined together as the North Philadelphia Health System (NPHS) in 1990, it was natural for the nonprofit Catholic healthcare organization to continue the longstanding tradition of developing cooperative relationships with its employees’ labor unions.

In the early 1990s, NPHS voluntarily recognized AFSCME as a representative for its nurses through card check, a process that allows a majority of employees to present signed cards authorizing their desire for union representation.  By adopting this progressive approach to labor-management, NPHS quickly established a positive relationship with its employees. Today, the collaboration thrives in its ability to provide a cooperative work environment that places client and patient care above all. 

Gwendolyne Lowry, a 38-year veteran of St. Joseph’s Hospital and AFSCME member, aptly describes the alliance between NPHS and its unions as “a joint venture.”  Says Lowry, “They know that the union is here just as much for them as it is for us.”  The partnership has produced a number of employee programs including a safety-awareness initiative and a career progression track that enables certified nursing aides to become registered nurses.

The cooperative labor-management approach benefits the employer as much as the employees.  In the mid-1990s, NPHS experienced an economic downturn and nearly had to close its doors.  Unions stepped in and helped secure the money and political backing needed to keep the facilities open. James A. Gloner, Senior Vice President for Management Systems at NPHS, states, “If we didn’t work together, the organization would not exist.  The employees and the unions that represent them are the backbone of the organization.”

Selection Criteria

> Collaborating as equal partners with workers and their unions to craft innovative strategies on compensation, performance, and productivity to meet business goals and address challenges

> Providing sustainable wages or progressive increases and worker-friendly benefits

> Free and fair choice to form a union

> Protecting workers’ safety and health

> Offering training and professional
development opportunities

> Contributing positively to the broader

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