Who Will Be The Next NUHW 16?

by Steve Early

Steve Early

Steve Early

The price of campaigning for union reform can be high. Dissidents in the U.S. labor movement have been fired, blacklisted, and beaten up. In 1969, one was even murdered along with his wife and daughter. (See Yablonski, Joseph A.) In some unions, critics of the leadership face internal discipline, which can lead to fines, suspension, or expulsion.When rebellious rank-and-filers get dragged into court, it’s usually because officials sued them for libel or “copyright infringement” (involving the union logo) to inhibit free speech or shut down opposition websites and Facebook pages.

But that was before the “NUHW 16.” Their four-year legal persecution has become a case study in how a big labor organization, with deep pockets, can make an object lesson of former loyalists who became dissidents, sided with the members, and dared to disobey the dictates of higher union authority.

Oakland lawyer Dan Siegel, who represents these defendants, has been handling cases arising under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) since the 1970s. Yet he has “never seen a situation where an international union was using the federal law designed to protect union democracy to sue union dissidents”—until now.

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Kaiser Aftermath: How About Some Competition to Organize Healthcare Workers?

seiu-victory-200x146Little Rock       Probably surprising none of the organizers involved or anyone looking at the campaign, the vote count on the rerun decertification election between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) produced the same result with a wider margin as Kaiser hospital workers in California overwhelming voted for SEIU by almost a 2 to 1 margin, 58.4% to 40.6%.   In such a landslide both sides had to have known the outcome for many weeks, and the NUHW and its new partner, the powerful California Nurses’ Association (CNA), likely did not pull the petition simply as a talking point for the future as they engage other healthcare workers and try to put a spin on the defeat.  SEIU won this round hands down, but their victory is pyrrhic, if it doesn’t now come with the grace that goes with leadership.

I wouldn’t bet on it, but it would be wonderful, if this closed one chapter for all the unions involved and opened another.   This whole division among unions in California has been a disaster for all involved, undermining the stature and reputation of all of the organizations and their leadership, dividing workers from each other therefore only benefiting employers, costing millions, and reducing the strength of all progressive forces everywhere.  It has to stop now for the sake of the labor movement and workers everywhere, especially in the healthcare industry.

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SEIU Wins Again at Kaiser, But Militant Minority Grows

       by Steve Early

Steve Early

Steve Early

Thirty-one months ago, when the Service Employees International Union first defeated the National Union of Healthcare Workers in a unit of 45,000 service and technical workers at Kaiser Permanente in California, SEIU leader Dave Regan proclaimed that “NUHW is now, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.”

That obituary proved a little premature. Rank-and-file supporters of NUHW remained alive and kicking, not only at Kaiser but also in other healthcare workplaces around the state. Using member-based internal and external organizing methods, NUHW largely bucked the national tide of concession bargaining in nearly 20 new units composed of previously unorganized workers or SEIU defectors.

With strong financial backing from its new affiliation partner, the California Nurses Association (CNA), NUHW has been gearing up since January for a re-run of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election at Kaiser. SEIU won the first round in October 2010 with 18,290 votes to NUHW’s 11,364.

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Wade Rathke Reads the Tea Leaves on Huge SEIU-NUHW Decert in California

by Wade Rathke

red-vs-purple-nuhw-seiu-a-200x184New Orleans  First come the disclaimers.   I have no stomach for this 5 year saga in California that has created a huge rift in the labor movement as folks picked sides between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers’  (NUHW).  Depending on how you line up, NUHW is either a principled group of dissidents trying to reform SEIU and the whole labor movement and bring it back to its roots or a band of renegades who broke when they didn’t get everything on their Christmas list from SEIU.

Regardless the ballots are now out to the workers of the huge 45,000 member bargaining unit at Kaiser Hospitals on the question of whether or not to decertify the existing bargaining unit, SEIU, or to certify NUHW.  Starting May 1st the ballots are due and the counting will begin, perhaps to put an end to all of this or maybe to simply open another chapter in his horrible mess.  This is a re-run election.  SEIU won the first round by a large margin, but the election was overturned by the NLRB based on findings of unfair labor practices in the way that Kaiser favored SEIU before the vote.

[Readers may be interested in our recent reports on the upcoming SEIU-NUHW election by Carl Finamore Steve Early,  and Harold Meyerson,  as well as coverage of the  background to this election.--Talking Union]

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The Big Do-Over at Kaiser

Which way will 45,000 California healthcare workers swing? The answer has major implications for labor

By Steve Early

Steve Early

Steve Early

For seventy years, there was no bigger union representation vote in the private sector than the 2010 election involving 45,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente (KP), the giant health care chain in California. Now, the same labor and management parties are engaged in a costly re-match with wider implications for labor.

The initial election pitted the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) against its new California rival, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). SEIU, the incumbent union, retained its bargaining rights by the healthy margin of 18,290 to 11,364. But, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), that victory was tainted by SEIU misbehavior similar to that of anti-union employers—the kind of tactics usually termed “union-busting.” Over SEIU’s objections, the NLRB ordered a re-run of unprecedented scale.

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California Health Workers Get a Second Chance What It’s All About

By Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Except for maybe the famously intractable George Bush and Dick Cheney, it’s pretty common to want to take back something we did in life.

American slang celebrates this new opportunity – we get “another swing at the bat,” “another crack at it” or we take “a mulligan” which for millions of amateur golfers means replaying an errant shot that lands in a bunker.

This is where 45,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers spread across 32 locations in California find themselves today. The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) argues they have a second chance to dig themselves out of a sand trap.

It’s because the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced a revote of a 2010 representation election between NUHW and SEIU-UHW where the latter prevailed by violating the law and colluding with Kaiser to rig the vote. There is no nice way to say it. These are the facts.

The government agency admitted it rarely overturns elections of this size and scope but on this occasion, the egregious violations compelled it to act. The official NLRB statement noted misconduct by “SEIU-UHW, that the judge found to have interfered with the employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice.”

A new mail ballot election has been, therefore, scheduled for April 5 to April 29 with the vote count starting on May 1.

I recently spent an afternoon at Kaiser San Francisco to see what I could find out.

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Jerome Brown Reviews Two Reviews of Jane McAlevey’s Rising Expectations

by Jerome Brown

Jerry Brown

McAleveybook

Talking Union previously featured Sarah Jaffe’s interview with Jane McAlevey. Joe Burns’ review of McAlevey’s book can be found here. Steve Early’s review of McAlevey’s book can be found here. McAlevey’s response to Early can be found here. We encourage further discussion.–TU

I am submitting this as a review of Joe Burns’ review of Rising Expectations and of Steve Early’s critique of McAlevey which in many ways is parroted by Burns.

I am writing as someone who was directly involved in the unusually effective changes led by Jane McAlevey in Local 1107, SEIU Las Vegas and as someone who watched with real sadness the subsequent undermining and failure of that Local. I am the retired president of 1199 New England, a union with a proud history of militant rank and file activity and high standards in the public and private sector. The growth of Local 1199 in Connecticut from 900 members when I assumed staff leadership in 1973 to 23,000 members when I retired required the dedicated efforts of many leaders and members. McAlevey identifies me as one of her mentors in the labor movement and I am happy to wear that description.

I disagree with some of the examples of SEIU skullduggery recited by McAlevey–most particularly her description and demonization of Sal Roselli and UHW under Sal’s leadership. But on most of the facts supporting her narrative, McAlevey is right on target. Yes, SEIU made private deals with national hospital chains, deals that gave away worker rights to strike and even rally. And these deals were never explained to or ratified by the members. Yes SEIU undermined and then disrupted member activism,threatening Jane and the Local with trusteeship if it dared engage in job actions against these employers. And yes, the SEIU and the AFL-CIO failed in Florida during the 2000 presidential election and failed in any number of other crises because they did not motivate, support or really believe in militant membership activity.

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Joe Burns Reviews Rising Expectations

by Joe Burns

McAleveybook
Raising Expectations, by Jane McAlevey is a memoir of a progressive activist and non-profit foundation official who gets recruited into the labor movement and thrust very quickly into leadership positions. The book relates McAlevey battles with employers, other labor officials, and ultimately with her own membership.

Raising Expectations purports to tell the tale of how McAlevey was “bounced from the movement, a victim of the high-level internecine warfare that has torn apart organized labor.” The reality, however, is far more complex. For Raising Expectations raises interesting questions about the relationship between middle class labor leaders and the workers they seek to lead.

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Just What Workers Need: More Labor Civil War

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

As a rule, most merger or affiliation announcements between two organizations tend to the celebratory: Each group brings a proud history and now have joined together to create an even prouder future, yadda yadda. But not last Thursday’s press release from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA), which proclaimed its affiliation with the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) in an announcement largely devoted to attacking the presumed perfidy of the Service Employees International Union, with which NUHW has been engaged in a prolonged blood feud that puts the Hatfields and McCoys to shame.

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Response to Steve Early’s Review of Raising Expectations

Talking Union recently featured Sarah Jaffe’s interview with Jane McAlevey. We followed with Steve Early’s review of McAlevey’s book.  Here is McAlevey’s response to Early. We encourage further discussion.–TU

McAleveybook

 By Jane McAlevey

The editors have graciously offered me the opportunity to respond to Steve Early’s review of Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell). I want to respond to Early’s review, which focuses primarily on about ten percent of the book, but also to give people some idea of what the other ninety percent is about.

It will be no surprise to knowledgeable readers that Steve Early’s review is heavily focused on the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).  In Early’s The Civil Wars in US Labor, he declares himself as not only a partisan, but as among the biggest cheerleaders of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).
However, in his review of my book, Early keeps his sympathies under the table. This does a disservice to readers who try to make sense of all this. Readers of his review of Raising Expectations might get the impression that my book is all about his interest, NUHW. Not at all. My book is about organizing, and how to rebuild the US labor movement in a time of tremendous difficulty and multiple setbacks.

In my book, I clearly identified myself as someone who tried to steer an independent course amidst complicated turf wars–the issues that matter most to Early.  That’s apparently enough for Early to direct a lot of criticism at me, some of it directly on NUHW matters, some of it spillover about somewhat related points.  (I am not, it might be noted, alone as an object of Early’s criticisms.)

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