Caregivers ask Supes to investigate secret union contract

NewsSeptember 23, 2009

SEIU-UHW stages first of three rigged votes to push through agreement kept secret from 5,000 homecare providers

Santa Rosa, Calif.—More than a dozen homecare providers spoke out in front of the Sonoma County Administration Building Tuesday morning, asking County Supervisors for help in finding out details of a secret union agreement by SEIU-UHW that could reduce their wages and benefits over the next two years.

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“Our union should represent our best interests, but SEIU-UHW refuses to let us see the entire contract, just a summary before we vote on it,” said Arin Stevens, a homecare provider in Sonoma County for 22 years. “We worked hard to get these wages and benefits and don’t want them to be bargained away behind our backs.”

The union is holding meetings to ratify the contract at three sites around Sonoma County on three different days, which began Tuesday. Providers will only be allowed to vote after sitting through a sales pitch by union officials, and caregivers will never be shown the actual agreement between SEIU-UHW and the County.

SEIU’s agreement would reportedly allow the County to slash all caregivers pay by $2 an hour just one year after the contract is ratified, and take away workers’ Kaiser health plan and replace it with a cheaper insurance scheme that healthcare advocates have called on the Attorney General to investigate.

Outside the County Building, providers called for a transparent voting process in which workers are fully informed, and a neutral third party to observe the ballot count to prevent SEIU-UHW officials from manipulating the results.

For previous contracts, details were mailed to all homecare providers before a mail-ballot vote, which allowed all members to participate in the decision. Homecare workers often provide constant care for elderly or disabled consumers and most cannot find a replacement on short notice to attend a lengthy ratification meeting. The dramatic change to the voting process is the result of a hostile takeover of the local union by national SEIU officials.

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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. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, Kaiser Permanente facilities, homecare, and nursing homes have petitioned to join NUHW since January 2009.