Fresno Bee: Homecare union election challenged

NewsJune 20, 2009

Workers in Fresno Co. will have to wait 10 more days for final results.

by Barbara Anderson

Fresno County’s 10,000 homecare workers have voted in a bitterly fought election to remain with their established union, according to a tally of votes Friday evening.

But the election results are being challenged.

A count of the votes Friday showed the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers-West won by a 233-vote margin over the National Union of Healthcare Workers, said Steve Sanchez, interim program manager for the Fresno County Public Authority. The authority is the employer of record for the workers, who care for elderly and disabled people — many of whom are family members.

The SEIU received 2,938 votes, and the NUHW had 2,705 votes, Sanchez said. Ninety ballots were being contested, he said.

The state mediator will not certify the election results for 10 calendar days, Sanchez said.

The NUHW said it had asked for a recount vote and will contest the election.

“SEIU engaged in an illegal campaign fraught with violations of state and federal law,” said Kevin Hall, a Fresno volunteer organizer. “We will be filing charges against them immediately to have a re-run of this election.”

In an e-mail, NUHW said Fresno County homecare providers reported scores of incidents of voter intimidation, illegal threats and ballot manipulation by SEIU staff.

“Based on SEIU’s illegal conduct and flawed decisions by the county election officer, healthcare workers in NUHW will file a legal challenge to the election and not be party to certification of the results,” the union said.

SEIU representative Renee Asher said the charges were baseless.

“This election was fair, and it was impartial, and we both went out there and did our best,” Asher said.

The real battle is in Sacramento, where a state budget is being formulated “that effectively would end homecare in California,” she said.

The Fresno County election is the first large-scale contest between the 2.1 million-member SEIU union and the upstart NUHW.

The unions have been locked in conflict since the NUHW was launched in January out of a rift over leadership of the 150,000- member United Health Care Workers West, the Oakland-based local of the SEIU. The NUHW formed a day after SEIU President Andy Stern took control of the local by removing its 100 officers and placing it under a trustee’s care.

In their battle for Fresno County votes, both unions have taken credit for getting in-home care workers a $10.25-an-hour wage and 85 cents an hour in benefits.

Each union faulted the other for a Fresno County wage-and-benefit cut of $1 per hour that goes into effect July 1.

Source: Fresno Bee