Federal government will protect Kaiser workers’ union election

NewsJuly 23, 2010

Workers win important victory on terms of election for 44,000 to join NUHW

WASHINGTON, D.C. On a conference call held Wednesday by the National Labor Relations Board, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) won an agreement that ensures workers’ right to vote by mail in the privacy of their homes, in a government-protected election to join NUHW.

Until Wednesday’s call, the embattled incumbent union SEIU had insisted that all employees should be forced to vote in the workplace, where Kaiser managers and SEIU staff have exclusive access and have worked to prevent voters from hearing both sides. NUHW refused to agree to those terms, and advocated for a protected mail-ballot election. The federal government has agreed to set the date for such an election as early as next week.

“The decision we have to make is too important to let SEIU and Kaiser managers make it for us,” said Delores Jones, a medical assistant at Kaiser Stockton. “We have the right to have all the information and vote for the union that gives us the strongest voice for our patients and ourselves.”

NUHW is California’s fastest-growing union, made up of thousands of healthcare workers across the state who have rejected unaccountable SEIU leaders who exclude members from important decisions about their jobs and benefits. Instead, NUHW supporters are choosing a union where decisions are made by Kaiser workers themselves.

More than 2,300 Kaiser workers joined NUHW this January in three landslide elections. One of their first accomplishments was winning 171 new positions at Kaiser’s flagship Los Angeles hospital, a victory for patient care that also creates more quality jobs with good pay and benefits.

The federal government has also stepped in to protect Kaiser workers’ promised raises and benefits when they join NUHW. Kaiser management is required by federal law to maintain the terms and conditions of the union contract when workers change unions, without favoring one union over another, yet management tried to flout the law in April by taking back a 2 percent raise from the employees who joined NUHW. Workers filed a charge, and the National Labor Relations Board announced they would hold a hearing to make sure Kaiser management follows the law.

SEIU continues to plead its case to the National Labor Relations Board on separate petitions for nearly 2,000 other Kaiser workers, to whom SEIU hopes to deny the right to vote entirely. Attorneys representing Kaiser workers believe SEIU’s arguments have little chance of success and are merely a tactic to delay elections SEIU believes they will lose.

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is California’s fastest-growing union, representing caregivers in every job classification. NUHW is dedicated to member democracy, dignity and justice for healthcare workers, and quality, affordable healthcare for all. | NUHW.org