SEIU Response to UHW Conflict

by Eliseo Medina

eliseo1

I welcome the opportunity to post on the DSA Talking Union blogsite and I want to thank Brother Garver for inviting me to do so. I hope, to clear up the record about the chronology of events between SEIU and our union’s local United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW).

This disagreement, that is being played out now, has roots that reach back almost a decade, when our union’s collective leadership examined our internal organization and came up with a proposal that would make sure that SEIU would grow and prosper so that we could have a real impact on the daily lives of our members and others.

In 2000, we adopted the New Strength Unity Plan that realigns our local unions so that our members and potential members can take better advantage of their full potential as workers in a difficult economy. This was a several-prong process, including extensive member engagement through field hearings and polling, deliberation by a representative committee of our union and finally, a compilation of a detailed list of recommendations that won the support of the entire union leadership, including San Francisco-based United Healthcare Workers-West head Sal Rosselli. In fact, United Healthcare Workers-West was among the new locals created by the reorganization early on. At the time, its leaders, including Sal Rosselli, actively supported the dissolution of Locals 399 and 250 in 2005 to create UHW, and this led to the appointment of Sal Rosselli as president.

The January 9th vote by our union’s International Executive Board was a continuation of the process to unite home care and nursing home workers from three SEIU local unions into a single union local to create the nation’s largest and most powerful organization of long term care workers – 240,000 strong, reaffirming the plan that was set out by our union way back in 2000.

In the words of Leonard Page, former General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, who wrote an opinion on this for our International Executive Board: “By implementing its jurisdictional policy, SEIU has been able to create local unions of the size and resources to successfully mount the organizing, political and collective bargaining campaigns that have delivered for members…. My recommendation is that, for the present, California long term care members should have their own SEIU local union devoted exclusively to the needs of these workers.”

SEIU has charged me to make sure that our members in California understand the process and benefit from it. That’s why, in this next month, I will be working with members in California to ensure that this new plan will continue to accommodate members’ concerns before I present a final recommendation in February to our union’s International Executive Board. In almost every case, locals have accepted and fully cooperated with the jurisdiction decisions and our members have grown in strength. I hope that UHW members will also realize the strength that comes in numbers as together we build a union that can meet the difficult challenges before us.

Homecare workers hold an important place for SEIU is as a union and for me, personally. When our international union made a commitment to organize home care workers as a way to raise standards in this sector, the entire national union fought intensely to pass laws to allow home care workers to organize and we bargained hard to ensure contracts to raise folks out of poverty so that they can provide for themselves and their families.

The decision to unite all long term care workers into one unified local couldn’t come at a more critical moment. California‘s budget crisis and the sweeping cuts Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed to the IHSS home care program and other critical long term care funding, means that long term care workers are facing cuts in hours for home care consumers and rollbacks of gains they have earned in pay back to minimum wage.

Under the reorganization, California long term care workers will be among the most powerful political and economic forces in the state – positioned to fight draconian budget and wage cuts and to press for meaningful long term budget solutions in Sacramento and to continue to bargain strong contracts for our members and new members to come.

DSA members know better than anyone that without a strong and growing labor movement, we simply cannot bring social justice to America. As an honorary chair of DSA, I welcome this dialogue.

Eliseo Medina, an honorary chair of DSA, is an executive vice president of SEIU where he is leading SEIU’s efforts to organize workers in 17 states. Medina’s career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers’ strike in Delano, California. He worked alongside Cesar Chavez, eventually serving as the United Farm Workers’ national vice president.

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10 Responses

  1. Thursday evening I was in a meeting with Mr. Medina when he said that the international wants a smooth transition with no interuption in the flow of bargaining or any thing else. That was such a joke since I was in bargaining that morning with my owner when they brought out a letter from Andy Stern telling the owners that they didn’t have to negotiate with UHW. We let them know in no uncertain terms that UHW was our bargaining unit and we would NOT be going away.
    It’s insulting that the international communicated with the owners before dealing with the members, but that didn’t surprise any UHW members since we all know SEIU could care less what the members want and love making sweet heart deals with owners. I would like nothing better than to totally seperate from SEIU.

    • SOMEBODY FROM OUR UNION our union needs to come to manteca kaiser and do some campaigning because alot of important key poeople are swinging to NUHW

  2. Were you able to actually see or get a copy of this letter?

  3. “Class Is An Imported Idea From Europe…” SEIU/Andy Stern.
    Did Eliseo Medina agree with this statement all of his life?

    OR did he start agreeing with this logic when he was having cigars with Tyrone Freeman?

    OR did he turn his back on his class when he was letting Freeman steal all that money from the impoverished California Homecare workers???

    Eliseo Medina is the class collaborator who is worse than the bosses us workers have to deal with!

  4. A single local for all homecare workers is a good idea–but not if it’s run by a Stern-appointed ivy-league-educated-carpetbagging dictator. Thus, UHW is right to fight to keep the homecare workers unless and until the rest of SEIU is run as democratically as UHW.

  5. (Ed. note) Eliseo Medina responds to Mary Mundy’s comment:

    Sister Mundy, I am deeply concerned with what your employer alleges here. I want you to know that SEIU never told employers that they did not have to bargain with UHW. To the contrary – the letter that was sent to employers outlined that the International Union’s Executive Board approved Outside Hearing Officer Leonard Page’s recommendation that SEIU’s long term care workers in California be united in one local union. It clearly states no changes will take place until February 2009 regarding jurisdiction for SEIU workers in California and “All representational and contract administration functions will continue uninterrupted prior to, during and after this transition period.

    “As you may know, this decision was made after a multi-year democratic process that included many opportunities for the members to weigh in. In fact, last June, member representatives from all over our Union voted on the issue of jurisdiction for our long term care members at our 2008 Convention.

    “I am providing the letter that was sent to employers below to clarify things. This letter was sent to employers of all three impacted locals, not just UHW.
    As I said in my first post, this was a democratic process, and has been since 2000, when our union first decided to retool for the future. I also strongly encourage you and other UHW members to contact the International to get honest and accurate information and to get your questions answered. You can reach us at 866-888-8256.

    In solidarity,
    Eliseo

    January 9, 2009

    Sharon Jensen
    County Administrator
    625 Court Street, Room 202
    Woodland, CA 95695

    Dear Ms. Jensen,

    I write to advise you that the SEIU International Executive Board (“IEB”) voted today to continue representation of California long-term care workers through a single unified statewide long term care local union. This successor union will represent the long-term care workers employed by your public authority and currently represented by UHW.

    Pursuant to its authority under the SEIU Constitution and Bylaws, the IEB has exercised its constitutional authority to initiate the transition to a single, statewide local. The decision of the IEB was the result of a thorough and participatory process, which took place starting in 2006. In 2008, four days of hearing were convened, during which evidence was taken from more than 50 witnesses to determine the most effective form of representation for California long-term care workers. Each California SEIU local representing long-term care workers made presentations before hundreds of workers in attendance. Based on this evidence, an outside Hearing Officer, former NLRB General Counsel Leonard R. Page, recommended that a single local union be chartered to represent California long-term care workers. An advisory vote of all affected SEIU members in California affirmed majority support for this recommendation. The IEB has now adopted that report. Particularly in this time of economic crisis in California, the IEB was convinced that uniting all 230,000 nursing home and homecare workers throughout the state is the best way to protect and advance quality care and services, and good jobs for our members.

    There will be no action taken to change jurisdiction before February 9, 2009. Thus, the transition of units into the successor local union will not begin for at least 30 days. Continuity will be assured during this period of transition. All representational and contract administration functions will continue uninterrupted prior to, during and after this transition period.

    A representative of SEIU will be contacting you during the coming days to discuss the transition to the successor local union. Should you have any questions about representation during this time, please contact Anthony Segall or Emma Leheny of Rothner, Segall, Greenstone & Leheny, the law firm representing SEIU in connection with the transition. They may be reached by telephone at (626) 796-7555, or by e-mail at asegall@rsgllabor.com or eleheny@rsgllabor.com.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew L. Stern
    International President

  6. one follow up – the SEIU buzzword for their approach to unionism is “21st century unionism”.

    If this is the 21st century approach, count me out. I’ll stick with 20th century unions that act like unons.

  7. This is Mary Mundy

    Mr. Medina, I am not your sister, even stupid providers can read between the lines of that letter and realize that the international is telling them that they don’t have to deal with UHW. Your idea of democracy astounds me. The members of UHW voted in mass and overwhelming voted to stay in UHW. We sent close to a hundred thousand petitions to let you know how we felt. I guess if Andy Stern’s hand picked cohorts vote that’s democracy but if the members vote, it doesn’t matter.

  8. Sounds like scab unionism for the 21st century to me.

    An injury to one is an injury to all.

  9. […] Medina is SEIU’s Co-Trustee for UHW who previously contributed to this blog on the conflict. On 5 February he issued an offical SEIU press statement on the “Rogue […]

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