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.
by 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.
by Wade Rathke
Little 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.
by 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.
by Wade Rathke
New 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]
Which way will 45,000 California healthcare workers swing? The answer has major implications for labor
By 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.
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.