In Stark Reversal, Former Union Leaders Now Attempting to Stop Union Elections for More Than 4,000 Workers
OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 14 In a stunning turnaround, the ousted leaders of the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) now say they want to stop union elections for more than 4,000 workers because giving the workers a democratic vote would be "unfair."
In a letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), a group started by the ousted leaders, is insisting that elections be halted at 29 hospitals and nursing homes unless the board capitulates to their demands for elections at other facilities.
"They are hypocrites. Last week NUHW officials were complaining that elections were not scheduled, and this week they are complaining because elections are going to be scheduled," said Romel Gorospe, an Emergency Room Technician at Sutter Solano Medical Center. "They have been trying to ruin things in my hospital for almost a year, and we're ready to vote them out."
"They obviously know that if these elections are held they will lose," said David Esparza, a dietary aide at Windsor Gardens of Salinas. "If they don't want to go forward with elections they should withdraw their election petitions and leave us alone once and for all."
During the past year, petitions seeking decertification of SEIU-UHW as the workers' union were filed with the NLRB by the NUHW, an organization formed by the union's former officials who were ousted in January 2009. SEIU-UHW members filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the NLRB that blocked the elections, citing employer abuses and NUHW misconduct that seriously jeopardized workers' rights.
Over the past week, healthcare workers at 29 California hospitals and nursing homes began seeking to move ahead with elections so they can join more than 55,000 other union members who have already chosen to stay united in SEIU rather than switch to NUHW.
The SEIU-UHW members have asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to schedule the elections as soon as possible so they can continue to improve their jobs and patient care without the distraction of another organization in their facilities.
In many places, members have now negotiated strong new contracts that lock in raises and benefits for up to three years - improvements that would be put directly at risk if workers were to leave SEIU. In others, NUHW is creating division as contracts are being bargained - a situation that management is trying to take advantage of. Members have decided the time has come to get NUHW out of their affairs and end the division.
The former officials who formed NUHW were removed from office in SEIU-UHW for improperly transferring $3 million in members' dues to an outside account for their own use, stashing $500,000 in a lawyer's bank account, and violating the democratic rights of SEIU-UHW members. The local union was placed in trusteeship, and the former officials go to trial in federal court in March for their actions to harm the union and its members, and could face a financial judgment against them.
Since the trusteeship in late January 2009, not a single SEIU member has switched to NUHW. Last year, 55,964 members stuck with SEIU, despite decertification efforts by the group of ousted leaders. This included 10,000 home care workers in Fresno County, 22,000 home care workers in San Francisco, 18,000 home care workers in Sacramento, and more than 5,000 hospital and healthcare workers at Alameda Hospital, Alameda County Medical Center, Washington Hospital in Fremont, Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, and workers in Monterey County.
SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (SEIU-UHW) is the largest hospital and healthcare union in the western United States with more than 150,000 members. We unite every type of healthcare worker with a mission to achieve high-quality healthcare for all. SEIU-UHW is part of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's fastest-growing union. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.
Contact: Adriana Surfas 510-869-2246
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