Fresno homecare workers petition to join NUHW

NewsMarch 2, 2009

10,000 in-home healthcare workers to join the 80,000 Kaiser, hospital and nursing home workers uniting in National Union of Healthcare Workers

Fresno, Calif.—In-home healthcare workers filed a petition today with the Fresno County In-Home Support Services Authority, calling for an election to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Caregivers say they’re getting rid of their old union, SEIU, so they can stay united with other healthcare workers at hospitals and clinics across California.

“Everyone deserves the same high-quality healthcare, whether they’re in a hospital, a nursing home, or living at home with the support of a homecare worker,” said Flo Furlow, a homecare worker in Fresno. “But there’s a gap between the high standards at hospitals and those in homecare and nursing homes. We want to be united with other caregivers so we can raise standards for everyone.”

In January, SEIU demanded that California’s healthcare union force out 65,000 homecare and nursing home workers, and make them join a separate union that would be run by SEIU staff from Washington, D.C. Homecare workers’ elected local leaders said they would only comply if workers were allowed to vote on the transfer. Instead of allowing a vote, SEIU seized control of the local union in a hostile takeover.

Since then, healthcare workers have been organizing to stay united in NUHW. Almost 90,000 workers at more than 350 facilities have petitioned to hold elections, including nearly every facility in Fresno County where workers are represented by SEIU. Today’s petition is the first by in-home caregivers.

“We need a union that is run by healthcare workers in California, not union officials in Washington, D.C.,” said Connie Lara, a homecare worker in Fresno. “When we still had democracy in our union, homecare workers in Fresno won a living wage for the first time. We want to protect what we won and keep fighting budget cuts that hurt consumers and workers. In NUHW we have a real voice to do that.”

Disability advocates supported the caregivers’ decision to change unions.

“These caregivers have been working together for years and raising quality standards for the seniors and people with disabilities who depend on their care,” said John Wilkins, an advocate for homecare services in Fresno. “But their old union was spending too much time and money fighting against them.

Fresno homecare workers collected almost twice the number of signatures required to trigger an election, despite an aggressive campaign by SEIU to mislead homecare workers that their contract and wages would be at risk if they change unions. The Fresno Labor Relations Board is expected to schedule an election within 45 days after verifying the signatures.

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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.