Kaiser Workers Launch Biggest Labor Battle Since 1940s

Jun 29, 2010, 13:50 ET from National Union of Healthcare Workers

California labor leaders support petition for 45,000 caregivers to quit SEIU and join NUHW

LOS ANGELES, June 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thousands of Kaiser employees fired the first shot today in a long-anticipated battle for independence that will determine the future of California's largest union, SEIU. They filed a petition that will trigger elections for 45,000 SEIU members to choose between the troubled incumbent and the state's fastest-growing union, the new National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

"We worked for decades to make Kaiser jobs good, stable jobs that paid enough so people in our communities could support their families," said Robert Hernandez, a materials management clerk at Kaiser Baldwin Park for 20 years. "Since SEIU officials took over our union, Kaiser has announced layoffs, cut benefits, and started turning good jobs into contingent positions. We're ready to put healthcare workers back in charge of our union."

Not since 1941 has a union election been scheduled for so many private-sector workers. California labor legend Dolores Huerta and Unite Here Local 11 President Tom Walsh gave their support at a press conference downtown.

"For employees to have a voice at work, they must have a voice in their union," said Huerta. "This is about democracy. For more than a year, these workers have been denied the right to vote."

"The members of Unite Here are proud to support Kaiser workers organizing to join NUHW," said Walsh. "We are committing our support to help them win."

Last year, SEIU officials from Washington, D.C. took over Kaiser workers' local union, ousting thousands of caregivers from elected positions and putting themselves in charge. Since then, SEIU has failed to represent employees, focusing instead on securing control of the union.

NUHW was founded as a member-led union after SEIU's takeover, and thousands of Kaiser workers already joined in three landslide elections. One of their first accomplishments in NUHW was winning 171 new positions at Kaiser's flagship Los Angeles hospital.

"To provide the best care for patients, there has to be a balance of power between healthcare workers and healthcare corporations," said Sal Rosselli, interim president of NUHW. "For decades, the voice of Kaiser workers made Kaiser not just the best place to work, but the best place to receive care. We want to restore that balance."

Full text with sources: http://nuhw.org/kpetition

SOURCE National Union of Healthcare Workers