After Overwhelming Defeat at Kaiser Permanente, NUHW Election Objections are Last Desperate Act to Undermine Democratic Majority of Workers

Oct 14, 2010, 21:46 ET from SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) members, fresh from a resounding election victory at Kaiser Permanente last week over the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), called the objections filed today by NUHW "a last desperate act by a failing organization to undermine the will of a democratic majority of workers."

"Kaiser workers have spoken by voting overwhelmingly for SEIU-UHW over NUHW. This union election showed what democracy looks like—and now NUHW is asking for a do-over because they can't accept the outcome," said Julian Gomez, a laboratory assistant at Kaiser Downey and an observer at the vote count by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on October 6-7. "Sounds like sour grapes to me."

NUHW officials have a history of filing objections with the NLRB when they lose elections in an effort to save face and delay final certification of the results, but they have never successfully overturned an election with SEIU-UHW. Just this week, ballots from an April election were counted October 13 for more than 200 workers at four Bay Area nursing homes owned by Pradap Poddotori. Workers voted to retain SEIU-UHW as their union. Also this week, SEIU-UHW members at Chinese Hospital and Enloe Medical Center won their elections over NUHW.

NUHW's objections to the Kaiser Permanente election are especially frivolous given SEIU-UHW's huge margin of victory when the NLRB announced the results of the mail ballot election on October 7—18,290 (61%) voted for SEIU-UHW while only 11,364 (37.8%) voted for NUHW, with 365 (1.2%) voting no union.

"NUHW's objections just show how desperate they are. Workers are just sick and tired of it. NUHW couldn't win the election fair and square, so now they're resorting to petty objections," said Fabunmi Sands, a patient care technician at Kaiser Sacramento. "We've seen it all before—this is just more NUHW games."

With the election at Kaiser over, more than 124,000 of SEIU-UHW's 150,000 members have now chosen which of the two unions to join, and 120,000 - nearly 97% - will have decided to stay in SEIU-UHW. Of the 4,300 SEIU-UHW members who went to NUHW, not a single one has a union contract today because NUHW has not successfully negotiated any contracts in its 21 months of existence.

SEIU-UHW has represented caregivers at Kaiser Permanente in California for more than 65 years. NUHW filed the petition with the NLRB that triggered the mail ballot election—the largest private sector union election in the United States since 1941. NUHW is led by former SEIU-UHW leaders who were removed from office in January 2009 for misusing millions of members' dues money.

Members at Kaiser Permanente voted to stay in SEIU-UHW to protect the standard-setting contract they negotiated earlier this year that guarantees 9% wage increases over three years, family healthcare with no cost increases and job security protections not found anywhere else in the industry. Negotiated by a 121-member, elected SEIU-UHW rank-and-file bargaining committee supported by thousands of union members, the agreement went into effect October 1, 2010. The contract would have had to be renegotiated and the gains would have been in jeopardy if caregivers chose NUHW.

Having lost the election at Kaiser, the situation facing NUHW points to an organization in trouble:

  • NUHW represents only about 5,000 workers (after predicting in early 2009 that they would quickly represent 100,000 workers). Only a tiny number of the workers it represents pay dues because the union has not successfully negotiated a single contract for any of the workers in their union.
  • NUHW reportedly is heavily in debt and NUHW and its leaders still owe SEIU-UHW $1.57 million in damages from a federal jury award in April for misusing members' dues.
  • In lead-up to the Kaiser election, SEIU-UHW members had rejected NUHW at nearly 50 other hospitals, nursing homes, and in counties that employ SEIU-UHW members as home care providers. NUHW's rejection by workers at Kaiser - the largest and most prestigious healthcare system in the state - will have a major influence on any future elections. It will undermine NUHW's ability to appeal to other healthcare workers who see Kaiser as the flagship for healthcare workers in California.

In addition, prior to the election, many union experts and labor professors were questioning why a group like NUHW would spend resources and cause SEIU to spend resources trying to decertify workers who already have a strong union. Given the state of the labor movement, down to just 7% of private sector workers, NUHW's focus on trying to decertify unionized workers does nothing to build the bigger and stronger labor movement workers need to improve their lives, they say.

SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (SEIU-UHW) is the largest healthcare union in the western U.S. with more than 150,000 members. SEIU-UHW is part of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Contact: Lisa Hubbard

(213) 716-2172

SOURCE SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West