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National Union of Healthcare Workers: Federal Labor Board Orders New Kaiser Election After Finding SEIU Guilty of "Coercive" Conduct that "Interfered with Employees' Freedom of Choice"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Indian Health News J E 4

43,000 Healthcare Workers Preparing for Re-Run of Largest Union Election in 70 Years

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge has recommended throwing out the results of last year's election between the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for 43,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in California. On July 18, Judge Lana H. Parke found SEIU guilty of misconduct, with collusion from Kaiser Permanente that "interfered with the employees' exercise of a free and reasoned choice among employees" (p. 33).

Judge Parke ruled that the SEIU campaign "tended to stoke unwarranted and coercive voter fears... conduct [which] viewed objectively, had a reasonable tendency to interfere with unit employees' free and uncoerced choice in the election" (pp. 14-15).

Kaiser contributed to the SEIU illegal campaign by unlawfully withholding wage increases and other promised benefits to 2300 Southern California professional employees and registered nurses who voted overwhelmingly to be represented by NUHW in January 2010. An NLRB judge determined that Kaiser's conduct was illegal and forced the healthcare giant to pay millions in back pay to those employees it discriminated against.

According to Judge Parke, SEIU piggybacked on Kaiser's illegal behavior, "and invited, if not provoked, the obvious inference that Kaiser's [illegal] conduct would be repeated ... [having] the tendency to interfere with the employees' freedom of choice" (p. 16).

Judge Parke wrote that in the election, SEIU's "communications about potential benefit losses, Kaiser's ULPs* figured as silent, menacing reminders that Kaiser not only could, but already had, unilaterally withheld benefits when other employees had chosen to be represented by NUHW" (p. 14).

Judge Parke found that SEIU "was joined in its warnings by Kaiser's President [Ben] Chu, who informed employees that only members of coalition unions were guaranteed PSP incentive bonuses. [SEIU] widely disseminated Chu's statement, giving weight to [SEIU's] repeated forewarnings that representational change might endanger PSP incentive bonuses. In these circumstances, widely disseminated warnings that the PSP incentive bonuses would not survive a change of representative must also have tended to interfere with employees' freedom of choice" (p. 15).

*Unfair Labor PracticesRead the ruling: http://bit.ly/ParkeRuling  

SOURCE National Union of Healthcare Workers

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