1,000 more workers at Alameda County Medical Center petition to join NUHW

NewsApril 1, 2009

Caregivers reject SEIU Local 1021 after union officials pushed them to ratify an incomplete contract and give up their right to choose their union

OAKLAND—More than 1,000 healthcare workers at Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC) have petitioned to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), joining almost 500 more who petitioned in early March. Workers say officials at their old union, SEIU Local 1021, tried to take away their right to choose their union by railroading them into a bad union contract that left their health benefits at risk.

“We need a union that acts in the best interest of healthcare workers and our patients,” said Charlene Bouligny, an ultrasound tech at the hospital for more than 20 years. “SEIU just isn’t accountable. They miss deadlines, and they don’t answer our phone calls or give us support when we need it.”

Labor law blocks workers from changing unions for a period of time after a union contract is ratified. After many ACMC workers petitioned to leave SEIU at the beginning of March, SEIU officials moved quickly to close the contract to lock workers into their union. To reach an agreement with the hospital, they agreed to lower standards on sick pay and seniority in hiring, and left caregivers’ health benefits to be negotiated later in an informal process where workers would not be allowed to vote.

“They told us it was a great contract, but they wouldn’t let us see it until the day we voted on it,” said Donna Lloyd, a lab assistant for over 10 years. “It didn’t even guarantee our health insurance benefits. But they threatened us that if we voted no, we’d have to go on strike.”

Fewer than 40 percent of workers voted, and SEIU was able to push the contract through—but not before more than 1,000 caregivers had filed petitions to reject SEIU and join NUHW instead.

“SEIU told us that union mergers would give us more strength in bargaining,” Lloyd said of the forced local union merger that created Local 1021 almost three years ago. “But it’s only been good for union officials, not for us. With NUHW as our union, we’ll have the strength we need to make things better for ourselves and our patients.”

In the last two months, more than 92,000 workers at over 360 facilities across California have petitioned for recognition of NUHW as their union. Alameda County Medical Center workers filed their petitions with the California Public Employment Relations Board on Thursday and Friday.

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. NUHW is building a national movement of caregivers to hold healthcare corporations accountable to the public interest and win affordable, quality healthcare for all.