The case for SEIU at Kaiser

What's going on right now with this union election is a shame


Editors note: In last week's issue, we ran an op-ed piece by two hospital workers who are members of Service Employees International Union and want to change their affiliation to the new National Union of Healthcare Workers. SEIU asked for the right to respond, so we're presenting the arguments of an SEIU worker who opposes the change.

OPINION I'm a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) at Kaiser Permanente Oakland, where I've worked for 26 years. As an LVN and a union shop steward, I have two passions: patients and workers.

I do home health visits. My patients are sick and sometimes feel anxious and upset. Those feelings can be overwhelming. When I walk into a patient's house, that person has my full attention. Little things like that make people feel better and heal more quickly. That's what's important.

I also know that healthcare givers can't provide good care if we don't have the basic things we need. I worked for another hospital before, but I came to Kaiser because the benefits, wages, and working conditions were better — and the union was better.

Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), my union, is the largest at Kaiser and has represented workers here since the 1930s. It's through our union that we've been able to make our jobs some of the best in California at one of the state's largest employers. Kaiser workers are not just providing quality healthcare throughout the state, we're also contributing to local our economies and getting our communities through these tough times.

I was one of 121 workers to be elected to the national bargaining team that negotiated our union contract, the largest committee ever in the history of our union. Members filled out surveys to set our priorities and we were able to win 9 percent raises over three years, no change in the cost of our fully-paid family healthcare, and some of the best job protection in the industry. I'm very proud that everyone's voice was heard and that we had the largest ever rank-and-file member vote to approve our contract. But now all that could be lost.

On the heels of winning the contract, another union — the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) — filed a petition for an election to represent Kaiser workers. Now Kaiser workers will vote on which union they want: SEIU-UHW, the union we won this contact with, or NUHW, which hasn't bargained a contract for anyone.

People want to know the truth, even if it's a hard truth. Here's the truth about NUHW: it was formed by former leaders of our union who were removed from office and have been found in federal court to have misused members' money. NUHW was ordered by a federal judge to repay $1.57 million in damages to SEIU-UHW members. They then filed a motion to delay payment, saying it would potentially bankrupt the new union. But their motion was denied. Let's face it — NUHW needs us more than we need them.

What's going on right now with this union election is a shame. I see some of my coworkers getting afraid and angry — afraid that we could lose the wage increases and healthcare benefits we fought so hard for and angry that NUHW is coming after us like this and creating these distractions. I tell them what I tell my patients: just focus on healing and moving forward.

We have a long history at Kaiser of supporting each other as coworkers, which is why it's so important that we resolve our differences and keep going. We've walked picket lines together, even when it's to support workers in other hospitals, and have fought to improve the quality of care we deliver to patients. We've worked hard to create good jobs in this community while people around us are losing everything. All this has been possible because workers are united in our union SEIU-UHW. *


It's shameful that SEIU will stop at nothing to keep our union dues. Their campaign of "third world war" (from an SEIU memo), millions spent (between $700-900 per employee), and a company management that is illegally providing resources and payed employees to keep NUHW from gaining a foothold in Kaiser SFO.
The great contracts she talks about were all negotiated by the previous leadership of SEIU-UHW, the same people who have formed NUHW after being removed for not following the SEIU orders from Washington DC and asking that members be allowed to vote on the cahanges.
The money the NUHW was ordered to pay to SEIU is the wages they received from SEIU while forming the NUHW. What SEIU won't mention is they spent $25 million of our dues to win that $1.5 million judgement.
The SEIU is following the best union busting practices by outspending, attacking and lying about all the issues. They threaten that we may lose the wage increase and benefits if we switch unions, in violation of federal labor law. Oddly, when electricians in southern California were worried about the same thing if they switched to SEIU, they were told federal law protected any contract they already had in place.
Lie, misrepresent, and use fear & intimidation. If this is how they are treating us when they are trying to get us to support them, how will we be treated after when we will have no say?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 9:55 am

to the guest who posted link to randy shaw's opinion piece:

save your post, read it 5 years from now and see the absurdity in your words.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 11:22 am

The Shaw opinion piece linked to uses a quote from a union-buster as a springboard for Shaw's diatribe. What his piece says is that SEIU can only win at Kaiser by using lies and threats, just like union-busters do.

What Shaw really displays in his piece is that, just like union-busters, he has nothing but contempt for the workers he writes about. When Shaw implies that SEIU will win only if workers are unable to see through what he claims are lies and threats, isn't he also saying that these workers are too stupid to see the truth (as proclaimed by Shaw)?

It puts one in mind of another writer who likes to refer to the new SEIU contract with a Kaiser as a "sweetheart deal". Yup, a sweetheart deal that 23,000 Kaiser workers voted for. What a lot of stupid people must work at Kaiser.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

23,000 voted for that contract, out of 44,000 employees.

Posted by 12 year Kaiser employee on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

23,000 is the most that have ever voted on a contract at Kaiser.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 09, 2010 @ 12:03 am

Fewer than 1300 voted AGAINST that contract--out of 44,000 workers. That's less than 3% of those eligible to vote. But those 1300 obviously possess wisdom far beyond that of their brothers and sisters. The 23,000 workers who voted for the contract--morons, the lot of them.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 09, 2010 @ 12:36 am