Dolores Huerta rallies with homecare workers fighting for independence from SEIU
May 27th, 2009
United Farm Workers co-founder supports vote for National Union of Healthcare Workers in next week’s union election
Fresno, Calif.—Central Valley labor legend Dolores Huerta took the stage today at a rally in downtown Fresno to support thousands of workers in a fight for independence from the Service Employees International Union.
Next week, 10,000 Fresno County homecare providers will vote in what journalists have called “the most important union election in the country.” Thousands of them asked the County to schedule the election so they can join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and quit the Washington, D.C.-based SEIU, a union stained by corruption scandals that has failed to protect their wages against devastating cuts by the County and State.
“These caregivers are standing up to take back their union and get back their wages,” said Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers. “With NUHW, caregivers will have the strong voice they need to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.
The SEIU is expected to send more than 750 out-of-town staff into Fresno County starting tomorrow to harass homecare workers at work and at home to press them to vote to stay in SEIU. The election in Fresno is especially important to SEIU after a humiliating defeat last Thursday at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, where workers voted 158 to 24 in favor of NUHW.
NUHW was founded in January, after SEIU officials seized control of California’s healthcare union in a hostile takeover as a last-ditch effort to silence whistleblowers and union reformers in local union SEIU-UHW. SEIU replaced the healthcare workers elected to lead the local union with staff from the Washington, D.C. office. Workers formed NUHW as an independent, democratic union with healthcare workers in control.
“We want our union back,” said Esperanza Cardenas, a homecare provider in Fresno. “Before SEIU took over, we had a voice to stand up for the people in our care. We always stopped the budget cuts. Since the takeover, SEIU didn’t stop massive cuts to our wages by the County. Now they want to win us back with robocalls, ads and publicity stunts. We’re sticking with NUHW, the union we built with the leaders we elected.”
The conflict began when Washington, D.C.-based SEIU officials started making backroom deals with employers and politicians that hurt healthcare workers and the people they care for. California healthcare workers and the then-elected leaders of local union SEIU-UHW stood up to the D.C. union. They demanded the right to vote on all agreements with their employers. In response, SEIU officials ordered the local union split in half, and ordered local leaders to force out nearly 65,000 homecare workers and transfer them into a union run by Washington, D.C. staff. The elected leaders of SEIU-UHW refused to force the homecare workers out unless they were allowed to vote on the transfer, and SEIU took over the local union to avoid a vote.
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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.