Caregivers win historic first recognition of National Union of Healthcare Workers

NewsMarch 17, 2009

With majority support, more than 350 nursing home workers become first to leave SEIU and win representation with NUHW

SACRAMENTO—Workers at three Sacramento-area nursing homes and one Pacifica-area nursing home have overwhelmingly chosen the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) as their union. North American Healthcare, Inc., which operates the facilities, has agreed to recognize the union and begin contract negotiations with NUHW’s elected bargaining team. NUHW and North American Healthcare also agreed to continue the terms and conditions of the current collective bargaining agreement while caregivers negotiate a new labor agreement with their employer.

Despite an aggressive effort by SEIU to intimidate workers and deny them a free choice of which union they wanted to represent them, caregivers rejected SEIU and chose NUHW as the representative of North American Healthcare workers.

Workers’ decision was certified by Shirley Campbell, a retired 25-year veteran of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service who has overseen hundreds of union elections for the State of California. The employer and the union agreed on Campbell as a neutral third party to verify that NUHW has support from a majority of workers, demonstrated by signatures on a petition.

“I hereby find that National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) has been designated and selected by a majority as the exclusive representative of the employees,” Campbell wrote in her finding.

Majority sign-up is a process approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that allows workers to choose their union directly, without the months of delays and legal obstructions that anti-union employers can use to interfere in elections run by the NLRB. The Employee Free Choice Act—the labor movement’s top legislative priority for the Obama Administration—would give all workers the option of forming unions by majority sign-up. In this case, workers exercised their right to freely choose which union they want to represent them.

“North American has recognized what caregivers across California have known for a while. Healthcare workers do not support SEIU,” said Marva Balley, a certified nursing assistant and union steward at Woodland Skilled Nursing. “A majority of my co-workers and I support NUHW. So do 90,000 other workers at more than 350 healthcare facilities who want to join a union they can believe in.”

While SEIU officials advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act in Washington, D.C., in California they are working to obstruct union elections at more than 350 healthcare facilities and block 91,000 workers from leaving SEIU. They have engaged in a campaign of terror against workers who dared to speak out against SEIU. Several workers have been harassed, intimidated, threatened, and in some cases suspended and even terminated from their jobs because they want SEIU out of their workplace.

“Healthcare workers need a voice in our union so we can stand up for ourselves and for the people who need our care,” said Eloise Reese-Burns, a certified nursing assistant at Cottonwood Healthcare in Woodland for over 39 years. “We asked SEIU over and over to let us vote and determine our own future, and they refused because they wanted to divide us. I’ve been a union steward for 30 years, and now we are in a union that will respect our voices. We’ve made our decision, and if SEIU continues to try to stop our choice, then there should be a law against what SEIU President Andy Stern is trying to do.”

North American Healthcare is a privately held for-profit company that operates 34 nursing homes throughout California, Washington and Arizona. The facilities where workers have united in NUHW include: Cottonwood Health Care Center, Woodland Skilled Nursing Center, Linda Mar Rehab Center, and North American Valley Skilled Nursing Center.

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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.