Fresno Bee: Homecare union election battle on again

NUHW In the NewsMay 4, 2012

Fresno Bee:

Fresno County’s 10,000 homecare workers could face a rerun of a bitterly fought union election to decide their representation if an effort for a new vote is successful.

But the bid for a re-election won’t come without its own fight.

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers want to overturn a narrow win in 2009 by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers-West.

SEIU-UHW vows to oppose the attempt.

On Thursday, NUHW President Sal Rosselli said a decision by the California Public Employment Relations Board opens the door for a new election by homecare workers. “This election can be thrown out so workers can have a fair election to decide their own fate,” he said at a news conference outside the Fresno County Hall of Records.

The April 18 board decision overturns an earlier ruling by a board regional attorney who dismissed a complaint by the NUHW. The union had alleged election misconduct by SEIU, including voter intimidation, illegal threats and ballot manipulation.

“They organized a campaign of fear, intimidation,” Rosselli said Thursday.

Connie Lara, a former homecare worker who attended the news conference, said SEIU representatives “were very hateful” during the election three years ago.

The case now goes back to the board’s general counsel.

But first, SEIU-UHW plans to ask the board to reconsider its decision, said spokesman Nathan Selzer.

“This has always been a fishing expedition” on the part of the NUHW, Selzer said. In three years, it “has not presented any wrongdoing by SEIU-UHW members or representatives,” he said. “We’ll present our case and they’ll present theirs, and we’re confident this will be a nonissue.”

The 2009 election for Fresno County homecare workers was the first large-scale contest between the SEIU union and the NUHW. The unions have been locked in conflict since the NUHW was launched in January 2009 out of a rift over leadership of the United Healthcare Workers-West, the Oakland-based local of the SEIU.

An overturn of the homecare election would be a major blow to the SEIU, the largest union representing Fresno County workers. In the past two weeks, SEIU has had 250 workers at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District decertify the union for their labor unit; hundreds of county corrections officers and social services employees could do the same.

SEIU also faces a re-election to represent 43,000 Kaiser Permanente workers statewide, including about 1,500 in Fresno. Last October, a majority of the workers voted to remain with the SEIU. The NUHW objected and last July, the National Labor Relations Board said a new election must be held.

Read the full article in the Fresno Bee.