The results from a recent survey of labor union members revealed their preferences when it comes to healthcare and the best way pharma can engage with this target audience.

Any pharma company that wants to make headway into the organized labor market must first understand that it is an entirely different population as compared to other employer groups. This is true due to healthcare benefits in general and, more specifically, in prescription drug utilization; this combination of elements provides a unique opportunity to work with unions to reach their members with information about the use and access to pharmaceutical medications. The Access Group (in partnership with its labor union communications company, Access Alliance) developed and administered a comprehensive healthcare-focused survey geared towards labor union members. The main goal of the survey was to gain insights directly from union members on important healthcare topics such as:

• Key healthcare concerns
• Current benefit structure and access to care
• Preferences in receiving healthcare information
• How the union might be able to better assist members

This survey was administered from March through April 2012 via the Internet (a link to the survey was provided to members via the union’s website and newsletter). The survey consisted of 23 core questions that were primarily multiple choice with a few select open-ended questions. There were 1,203 participants from a mix of law enforcement and building and construction trade unions that represented both active and retired members.

Union Pharmaceutical Benefits

As can be seen in the chart on page 39, union members generally have more robust healthcare and pharmacy benefits than offered by nonunion benefit plans. For example, in the area of coverage for branded pharmaceuticals, union members typically pay $10 less per prescription than nonunion members.1

Furthermore, respondents demonstrated that they take advantage of these benefits, with 60% indicating they take daily or regular prescription medication. In addition, members tended to be fairly brand loyal with approximately 90% indicating contentment with their current therapy. With this level of brand loyalty, it is not surprising that most members (more than 75%) are open to patient loyalty programs. Union members’ brand loyalty was even more evident, with 20% of the respondents indicating interest in branded programs even if a generic option became available.

This level of pharmaceutical utilization may be generated from a high level of physician interaction with union members. These interactions allow for multiple opportunities for messaging via their healthcare providers as seen in the survey:
• More than 80% visit a primary care physician (PCP) at least once per year mainly for routine check-ups.
• More than 60% visit a healthcare provider (of any specialty) two or more times per year and, of those, half mention that those visits are to different providers.

Motivating Factors Of Union Membership

Research shows that people join unions based on the perceived efficacy and instrumentality of the organization through perceptions of improved working conditions and job security, resulting in increased levels of life satisfaction.4,5 A study examining a socialization program’s effects found that being satisfied with training and union attitude were the most important predictors of union loyalty. Leadership influence and socialization also played key roles in determining union loyalty.6

Rules Of Engagement

Past project initiatives indicate that union members become actively engaged when a multi-pronged communication plan is initiated from union leadership to both the treating physicians and the union member. This was confirmed by the survey, which showed that communication from union leadership to the physicians is effective because most union members (63%) prefer to receive health information directly from their doctor or other healthcare professional. Also, communication to the union member is effective because a majority of the members who received union-provided information found it to be helpful and claimed it raised their level of awareness about the topic at hand.

In addition, 33% indicated that they received health-related information specifically from their union (75% of which was provided via direct mail). Chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease, overweight, cancer and diabetes as well as painful conditions such as neck/back pain and joint problems were indicated as the health areas of the most importance to union members. Regarding medication compliance assistance—which is vital in managing chronic conditions—at least 31% preferred medication compliance assistance through e-mail reminders and pharmacy phone calls to renew or refill.

Understanding the motivating factors for union members and how they respond to coordinated communications from their leadership and physicians provides a unique opportunity to offer valuable resources to these patients. As seen from this survey, union members appreciate education and support that can promote diagnosis and treatments offered by branded pharmaceutical medications.


1. US Department of Labor. National Compensation Survey: Health and retirement plan provisions in private industry in the United States, 2010. August 2011. Bulletin 2770.
2. AFL-CIO. The union difference. January 2009. Accessed July 5, 2012.
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor [press release]. Union members —2011. January 27, 2012.
4. Givan RK, Hipp L. Public perceptions of union efficacy: a twenty-four country study. Labor Stud J. 2012;37(1):7-32.
5. Hammer TH, Bayazit M, Wazeter DL. Union leadership and member attitudes: A multi-level analysis. J Appl Psychol. 2009; 94(2):392-410.
6. Fullagar C, McCoy D, Shull C. The socialization of union loyalty. J Organizational Behav. 1992;13:13-26.


You May Also Like

Live from Facebook! It’s Your Friendly Pharma Company

“Live.” It’s a word that can send a shudder through any pharma marketer, but ...

Cultivating Big Ideas

In response to a marketing environment that has become increasingly competitive, healthcare and pharma ...

What Pharma Should Do in 2013

At New Year’s resolution time, our physician expert offers five ways the industry can ...