Factfinder upholds Fresno County homecare contract negotiated by NUHW leaders, despite SEIU-UHW’s mishandling of arbitration

NewsJune 13, 2009

Providers call on Board of Supervisors to follow the lead of NUHW’s victories in Sacramento and San Francisco by using federal stimulus dollars to offset state cuts

Fresno, Calif.—An independent factfinder ruled on Friday against Fresno County’s proposed cuts to homecare providers’ wages, upholding the union contract first negotiated in 2003 by the leaders of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), even after SEIU-UHW’s new trustees failed to properly enforce the contract in a previous arbitration in May. NUHW leaders negotiated Fresno homecare providers’ first contract as well as the current contract while they were the elected leaders of SEIU-UHW, before a hostile takeover by SEIU’s Washington, D.C. office in January of this year.

“It’s a relief that the arbitrator this time acknowledged that the contract we won protects our wages,” said Flo Furlow, a Fresno homecare provider and elected leader of NUHW. “After SEIU took over our union in January, they locked me and every other worker who negotiated the contract out of the arbitration, and instead sent in Rebecca Malberg, an outsider from the East Coast who had never bargained a contract and never even witnessed an arbitration.”

Dana Simon, an SEIU staff member who helped workers negotiate the original contract, resigned in May after seeing SEIU officials undermine the workers’ contract and botch their first arbitration for political reasons.

“At every turn, the SEIU-UHW trustees put political considerations above principle and above the tactical decisions that would have helped the workers stave off the wage cut,” Simon said. “They excluded the workers at every step. They made public settlement proposals that accepted the premise of the employer’s incorrect case after the arbitration and before the negative judgment. They refused to allow me, as well as any of the workers, to review the employer’s post-arbitration brief or SEIU’s post-trial brief.”

In siding with homecare providers against the wage cuts, the factfinder in the second arbitration ruled that the cuts were not necessary because Fresno County could access federal stimulus dollars that more than offset Governor Schwarzenegger’s cuts to state homecare funding. NUHW supporters say this ruling confirms the value and transferability of the NUHW policy proposals that protected homecare providers wages and benefits in Sacramento and San Francisco last week.

“We call on Fresno’s elected leaders to stand up for seniors and people with disabilities, and for the dignity of those who care for them,” said NUHW Interim President Sal Rosselli. “The Board of Supervisors should follow the lead of Sacramento and San Francisco Counties in adopting our model to protect workers’ wages with no additional cost to the county.”

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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.