Sal Rosselli, Guardian Photo by Charles Russo.
By Steven T. Jones
There’s a new union in town, National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which was formed today by the United Healthcare Workers leadership team that was yesterday ousted by UHW’s parent union, Service Employees International Union. NUHW might as well stand for the New UHW.
SEIU has imposed a trusteeship on UHW, which involved suspending local bylaws, taking over UHW lists and contractual obligations, formally kicking out more than 70 elected UHW leaders, and appointing as trustees two SEIU executive vice presidents: David Regan and Eliseo Medina.
But UHW leaders continue to occupy the union’s Oakland headquarters, which they’ve used as the base of operations to launch the new union that they hope will be populated by many of UHW’s 150,000 members, who must vote to disaffiliate with SEIU to join the new union.
"As a healthcare workers union, NUHW is committed to continuing the tradition of a member-led, democratically controlled union," ousted UHW head Sal Rosselli said in a prepared statement. "There are lot of things that we still have to figure out, but we know NUHW will be all about accountability to the members, democratic-decision-making, organizing the unorganized and winning improvements for healthcare workers and the patients and residents we serve."
In a conference call with reporters, Regan and Medina blasted the Rosselli team for promoting the schism with SEIU, which had sought to transfer 65,000 long-term care workers from UHW to another SEIU local, something Rosselli says his members urged him to resist. “That battle ended yesterday,” Medina said, while Regan noted that, “It’s sad when a group of local officers lose their way.”
SEIU leaders hope to put the conflict behind them and move forward together to fight deep cuts being proposed in California’s budget, but it’s an open question how many UHW members are going to resist the change and follow Rosselli out the door, something that will become more clear in the coming weeks.