SEIU Mourns Members Killed in San Bernardino

by Paul Garver

Ten of the fourteen killed and many of those wounded in the shootings in San Bernardino were County environmental health specialists who were members of SEIU Local 721, which represents public-sector workers in southern California.

The local’s president, Bob Schoonover, noted that its members regularly worked at the Inland Regional Center, the health care facility where the massacre took place. The state facility serves people with developmental disabilities, offering work programs and social services. Employees of the county environmental health department were gathered there for a semi-annual meeting when Farook and Malik opened fire.

The union hosted a candlelight vigil with other labor groups on Monday to mourn the victims.

Mary Kay Henry, the international president of SEIU, said that she’d spoken with union leaders from around the country on Friday and heard “expressions of grief and outpourings of support.”

“The SEIU family suffered a profound and terrible loss Wednesday in San Bernardino,” Henry said. “Our hearts are broken from this tragedy. The victims taken from us too soon leave behind a legacy of lives dedicated to service and a deep commitment to upholding public health.”

Henry added, “We will unite to demand that our nation does everything possible to ensure that no more families have to feel this pain, sadness and loss ever again.”

Refusing to join in anti-Muslim hysteria, SEIU encouraged its members instead to sign a petition organized by health care professionals to demand that Congress allow the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate gun violence. To sign the petition go to http://act.drsforamerica.org/sign/end-cdc-ban/#.VjpXSrerQdV.

When Workers Fight: NUHW Wins Battle with Kaiser

National Union of Healthcare Workers

National Union of Healthcare Workers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.beyondchron.org/when-workers-fight-nuhw-wins-battle-with-kaiser/

Cal Winslow, Beyond Chron

The therapists, counselors, and social workers at Kaiser Permanente in California have won a magnificent victory. In a last minute retreat, in the face of an open-ended strike, Kaiser, the giant California health care corporation, settled with 1400 workers and their union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

The therapists’ victory is a landmark, in healthcare and above all in mental healthcare. The bottom line: these workers have won patient care ratios, they’ve won the right to advocate for patients, and they won these in a context of a nationwide drive to cut costs and press productivity in an industry awash in cash.

For Barry Kamil, a psychologist with 34 years experience at Kaiser in Richmond, CA, “It’s an historic victory. It puts our union in the forefront of the movement for getting mental health care on par with medical care.  Kaiser’s resistance has been unbelievable; they wanted to eliminate us as a union.”

The Kaiser workers won on economic demands as well; 6 % the first year, 4.5% plus bonuses in the second and third years of a three year contract. They protected their pension benefits; Kaiser – what’s new – proposed erasing their defined benefit plan.
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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

by Paul Garver


Dave Regan, current president of the SEIU local United Healthcare Workers’ West (UHW-W), is bitterly complaining about a decision by national SEIU to remove 70,000 home care workers from his 150,000 member local and transfer them to a newly chartered SEIU local in California.

In a missive written sometime after the May 21 decision, as reported in the San Francisco Business Times, Regan charged that SEIU’s decision:

“marks the first time in my 25 years in SEIU the union has knowingly, intentionally, and willfully taken a major action that is contrary to the basic interests of its membership” and called the decision “a massive betrayal of our stated principles and values.”

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry justified the decision to charter the new SEIU Local 2015 that would include 280,000 California home health care workers, including 200,000 transferred from UHW-W and other SEIU locals in California, as uniting all long-term care members in California into one strong union with the clear goal of winning $15 an hour and a union for everyone in the state who provides care and support to seniors and people with disabilities.”

According to Regan, “This decision is malicious and undertaken with the full knowledge that the interests of California healthcare workers are being sacrificed to the political needs of Mary Kay Henry.  We are ashamed and embarrassed for our Union.”

A clear clash of principles?  David vs. Goliath?  Local union democracy vs. bureaucratic centralism?
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National Nurses Union Endorses Sanders

As the Executive Director of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in our nation, I was there when we proudly endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.

In the moments leading up to our endorsement, I watched our nurses’ outpouring of love and respect for Bernie.

Bernie-NNU-endorsement-600px-150814

Bernie and NNU members

It was a magical moment of genuine hope for nurses who see people when they are at their most vulnerable and suffering, and who care for every person’s life in our country.

Nurses see the terrible social health consequences from:

Choosing between putting food on the table and getting the medications and treatment you need
Job loss
Severe depression from debt, especially student loan debt
Pollution, toxic spills, and climate change
Malnutrition and income inequality
With Bernie Sanders, we can turn our country around, and restore genuine hope for our families. Continue reading

Sanders: The Economy is Rigged by Corporate America

National Nurses United Endorse Bernie Sanders

OAKLAND, Calif. – National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, on Monday endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.

“Bernie has a proven track record of uncompromised activism and advocacy for working people and a message that resonates with nurses and tens of thousands of people across the country,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the organization. “We are proud to stand with him in his candidacy for president,” she added in remarks before delivering Sanders his first national labor union endorsement.

Flanked by nurses in red scrubs at the union’s Bay Area headquarters, Sanders thanked the 185,000-strong labor organization for providing high-quality health care to Americans. “I am humbled and enormously appreciative of you support,” Sanders said.

He called nurses “the backbone of our health care system” and added, “I want to thank each of you for the work that you do.”

Sanders has worked for years with the California-based national nurses’ group to strengthen Medicare, address the nation’s nursing shortage and ensure collective-bargaining rights and decent wages and benefits. He praised the critical role National Nurses United has played in improving the health care system, working to prevent medical errors and reducing costs.

He also welcomed the nurses’ backing for Medicare-for-all legislation that he will soon introduce to provide better care for more people at less cost. “The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.”

A leading champion for health care reform, the union also stresses social and economic justice issues as a key part of its mission. Continue reading

San Francisco Nursing Home Calls Cops on Peaceful Protesters

By Carl Finamore
 photo by NUHW
NUHW picket
A lively San Francisco picket line of 50 caregivers from the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) began their one-day strike of San Francisco Nursing Center (SFNC) in the very early morning hours of Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

NUHW negotiator Dennis Dugan told me the strike was primarily to preserve union-contract Kaiser Foundation health benefits that were unilaterally eliminated after San Diego-based Providence Group Inc. took control of SFNC long-term care facility in May.

 As a result, workers were dumped into a grossly inferior and more expensive healthcare pool of insurance choices. And, since then, the company has refused to negotiate with the union, limiting themselves to email exchanges through a federal mediator.
 
Nonetheless, despite the disruptions brought upon SFNC by Providence, there were other examples on this day of the warm, compassionate and very human connections in the facility.
 
For example, convalescing patients in wheelchairs and others sitting on comfortable lounge couches crowded the front lobby area to exchange waves and smiles with their favorite nursing assistant now unaccustomedly out of reach and on picket duty.
 
“These sudden cuts to our healthcare will make it difficult to recruit quality caregivers in the future,” says Certified Nursing Assistant Marilyn Aquino, “and that will undermine the quality of care SFNC residents receive.”
 
Several strikers asked of me, “how can we properly care for our elderly and sick patients with our own health in jeopardy because we will be unable to afford full care?”
 
Of course, healthcare is a huge issue for millions of Americans who often delay care because of the expense. This is a matter of record. However, when this reality hit the low-paid workforce at SFNC who previously enjoyed good contract health benefits, they united as never before.
 
All In for First Strike
 
This was the first strike ever at the facility and for almost everyone on the picket line, mostly Latinas and Filipinas, it was their first time too. So, workers reported with great pride their 100 percent participation in the one-day strike.
 
It was a start. Everything was going fine. A 12 noon rally of several dozen community and union supporters lifted spirits and was topped off by pizza, snacks and drinks being spread around.
 
So, when a San Francisco patrol car with two cops showed up at around 1pm, everyone took it in stride. The pickets did not stop moving and the chants did not stop echoing. Everyone assumed it was just a routine check – maybe asking folks to keep the sound down or cautioning us about street traffic.
 
But, it turned out to be anything but routine.
 
These cops were actually called by the SFNC administration to arrest prominent members of a community delegation that had just entered the facility to parlay with the employer.
 
The delegation facing arrest included SF Board of Supervisor John Avalos; top aides of two other city Supervisors; Tim Paulson, Executive Director, SF Labor Council and leaders from SEIU 87, the Filipino Community Center and the Chinese Progressive Association.
 
Incredulously, to make this scene on the inside all the more absurd, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, a supporter of NUHW workers and the strike, was himself picketing outside.
 
Paulson told me that the company’s security officer told him “you are trespassing” and that you have to leave or be subject to arrest. But Paulson and the others refused to leave before speaking with the onsite administrator and delivering the delegation’s message that “these striking workers and NUHW do not stand alone.”
 
The security guard was told that the delegation had elected officials along with union and community representatives who all believed it unacceptable to “unilaterally scrap existing health benefits and impose other sick day and vacation cuts while refusing to bargain.”
 
And, according to NUHW, this is exactly the record of the new owners.
 
Instead of negotiating with NUHW directly, Dugan continued, the company hires notoriously anti-union Los Angeles attorney Josh Sable who represents another nursing home operator under investigation for poor care and “flagrant disregard for human life” according to the Sacramento Bee.
 
A bad sign indeed.
 
“So, actually,” Dugan commented to me, “while the whole confrontation inside SFNC unfolding before our eyes looked ridiculous and was quite shocking, it is not all that surprising.”
 
The new owners have been stonewalling us from the beginning, he said. “In fact, the community delegation got a dose of SFNC’s new style of bargaining,” Dugan mused.
 
Nothing like this in recent memory has happened at SFNC where good union contract benefits were enjoyed by the workers who, at the same time, maintained SFNC’s state-sanctioned standards at a very high level.
 
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Providence has come in and broken it,” an exasperated Dugan told me.
 
Let’s Talk This Over
 
Indeed, the new owners’ old, outmoded command and control style of management was on vivid display for all the delegation to see. But when community representatives refused to budge until they spoke with an onsite administrator, who apparently was holed up in his office, a rapid-fire series of phone calls between company representatives ensued and a semblance of sanity was eventually restored.
 
Delegation members reported to me that, finally, the onsite administrator crawled out of his office to report a phone call from the Providence CEO from Los Angeles “that he did not like the strike, did not want another one and was very eager to begin negotiations with the union.”
 
As a result, a union organizer told me that the whole day was considered by the workers as a big success: “Our message was heard loud and clear – the company’s anti-worker behavior is not acceptable in San Francisco and when it is attempted, we mobilize extensive community outrage against it.”
 
Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He was outside on the NUHW picket line looking on the inside where all the fun was happening. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com