A New Year’s Message

NewsJanuary 3, 2011

Just one year ago, NUHW was eleven months old. While we had won three elections and tens of thousands of workers had petitioned to join our union, we were not yet certified in a single bargaining unit. Our union also faced a series of attempted legal roadblocks intended to thwart workers’ right to join NUHW. 

Today, one year later, the National Union of Healthcare Workers represents 7,300 healthcare workers in17 separate bargaining units across California and we have won a series of significant legal victories that secure workers’ right to join NUHW. 

While statistics can’t tell the individual stories of how workers won each of these victories, they do show the remarkable growth of our union: 

  • NUHW now represents more than 3,800 workers at Kaiser Permanente in five bargaining units touching virtually every Kaiser clinic and medical center in California
  • NUHW represents more than 3,000 healthcare workers at five separate hospitals including USC University Hospital, Providence Tarzana Hospital, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital
  • NUHW represents nearly 900 California healthcare workers who were previously not organized with a union

The muscle behind our union is member power. Day in and day out at their workplaces, these 7,300 healthcare workers are putting the power of our union into motion by working to bargain fair contracts, protect patient care and win strong representation and enforcement of their rights in the workplace. 

We are also proving that democracy works. Workers organized with NUHW have elected more than 380 stewards and bargaining team representatives. Whether they are organizing candlelight vigils, informational pickets or conducting the steady work of union representation, these workplace leaders, many with decades of experience, are showing what a difference it makes for workers to organize with NUHW.

Finally, a string of recent legal decisions reinforce workers’ right to choose NUHW. Two decisions by federal judges have held Kaiser Permanente’s actions against workers who voted to join NUHW to be illegal.  Kaiser Permanente has been ordered to immediately begin payment of the illegally withheld raises and benefits of NUHW members and to bargain in good faith with our union. Further, the California Public Employment Relations Board and the National Labor Relations Board have both recently rejected attempts by SEIU and healthcare employers to block the certification of workers’ elections to join NUHW clearing the way for workers to join our union after months—and in one instance, almost two years—of delay. 

All of this good news leaves NUHW poised to bargain fair contracts and, as further elections are unblocked and SEIU’s frivolous charges are rejected, for more healthcare workers to vote to join our union. In fact, last Thursday we received the excellent news that nearly 700 workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital were certified as the newest members of NUHW by the National Labor Relations Board.

This hopeful news had a special meaning for all of us who have worked so hard to build the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The caregivers at Santa Rosa Memorial had never organized with a union before. Their choice, after a seven year struggle, to organize with NUHW in December of 2009 was a victory over both corporate healthcare and corporate unionism. (SEIU received a mere 13 votes in their election.) I am proud to report that after democratically electing union shop stewards and bargaining team members and ratifying a bargaining platform, workers at Santa Rosa Memorial will begin bargaining their first union contract with their employer.

For all of us working to build the power of healthcare workers and protect the quality of care for California’s healthcare consumers, this news gives us hope and inspiration as we move into the new year. We wish a safe and prosperous new year for you and your family.