By Duane Campbell
After an apparent narrow defeat in Fresno, the battle between SEIU led by Andy Stern and former SEIU members in the National Union of Health Care Workers, led by Sal Rosselli, moves to Sacramento and the Bay Area.
In the past twelve weeks over 50,000 workers in California healthcare facilities have petitioned to leave SEIU and to join the newly formed NUHW.
NUHW activists are in a good position to win these elections in Sacramento and the Bay Area since they have been the union activists on the ground serving and organizing these workers for years.
In June, advocacy by former SEIU members now active in NUHW convinced Sacramento and San Francisco Counties to protect the salaries of Home Care Workers during intense budget cuts to programs caused by the current recession.
Of the Sacramento effort, Bill Camp, Executive Secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, said,
“The leaders of NUHW were so crucial in helping homecare providers win their union in the first place. And today they are helping homecare workers win again, and protect their wages and their jobs even in a time of economic turmoil. NUHW and Sacramento County are delivering economic security for providers in Sacramento and hope for providers across the state.”
Cards calling for an election between NUHW and SEIU will be collected in August and September with an election expected for late September. NUHW will be organizing on its own turf while the SEIU election campaigns depend upon importing outside campaign workers.
In-home support, workers provide day care and assistance to over 19,000 individuals in Sacramento County. Workers receive $10.40 per hour plus benefits for this work. Funding for the program comes from a combination of federal, state and local sources. Without in-home support services, many of these chronically ill and disabled individuals would move to nursing homes or hospitals where costs of care are much higher. There would be a severe shortage of beds for these patients if they moved from in-home care.
California and 41 other states are facing severe budget shortages created by the collapse of the U.S. economy caused by the greed of bankers, financiers, and those in the government who enabled these corporate robber barons.
The Obama Administration’s responses to the economic crisis are fundamentally supportive of the banking and finance industry. For example, they have not proposed a re-introduction of the Glass-Steagal act that protected working people from such financial manipulation from 1933 until 1999.
As a consequence of the crisis, unemployment will continue to grow and the states will continue to have budget crises for at least the next two years. States are responding by cutting services–health care, police protection, schooling and support services for the disabled. California has a $24 billion dollar deficit.
An additional stimulus is required to fund state and local services; however, so much money was spent on bailing out the banks and the insurance companies that a new stimulus proposal does not appear to have sufficient political support to pass Congress.
Unions battling each other, rather than working to protect workers’ wages and benefits, weakens the labor movement and hands control of budgets to the reactionaries and the Republicans.