In largest single-day filing ever in California healthcare, caregivers flock to new union and show SEIU the door

Press ReleasesFebruary 2, 2009

In record time, 9,000 workers at 11 hospitals and 51 nursing homes rush to NUHW—filings for thousands more to follow in days

Oakland, Calif.—In the largest single-day filing in California healthcare history, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) petitioned for elections in 62 California hospitals and healthcare facilities today with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) offices in Oakland and San Francisco. NUHW is a new, independent union formed by union reformers only last week, after the Service Employee International Union’s hostile takeover and trusteeship of United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW).

In only five days after its founding, NUHW has filed petitions to represent nearly 9,000 workers. The new union expects to file petitions for thousands more in coming days with the NLRB and with the California Public Relations Board for those workers whose employers fall under state rather than federal labor laws.

“Thousands of workers are rushing to sign petitions for NUHW. I helped to signed up 106 people at my facility within hours,” said Suzanne Redell, a respiratory care practitioner at Saint Louise, a Daughters of Charity hospital in Gilroy, who is organizing her co-workers into NUHW.

The new union has pledged to be more democratic then SEIU, which seized United Healthcare Workers, disenfranchised members and fired 18 elected leaders and replaced them with appointed trustees from Washington DC to run the local union. The local which had negotiated some of the best contracts in the country for healthcare workers—and had organized more hospital and nursing home workers in 2008 than the rest of SEIU combined—was taken over for publicly challenging corrupt practices and a top-down undemocratic leadership that was trying to consolidate power in the national headquarters in Washington and through appointees only answerable to national president Andy Stern.

“What’s happening here is so exciting, we’re building a union of the healthcare workers, for healthcare workers and by healthcare workers united in NUHW,” said Anita Cook, a unit secretary at Kindred Hospital in San Leandro.

“SEIU isn’t building anything. Their goal was and is to tear apart the most effective collective group of healthcare workers in the country. We’re tired of SEIU’s hostile tactics, threatening phone calls, their collusion with employers and governors like Blagojovich, and the corruption of Stern’s appointees like Local 6434 head Tyrone Freeman in Los Angeles, disgraced SEIU Executive Vice President Annelle Grajada, and the appointees who have just taken over what had been our local. We don’t trust them with our contracts, we don’t trust them with our dues—we just don’t trust them.”

Immediately after the filing with the NLRB at Oakland’s Federal Building, Cook added, “NUHW is building a union that respects workers. We have a chance to do things right, we can continue to fight for higher standards for workers and patients and give workers a voice. We’re tired of the SEIU lies. SEIU says they want non-union workers to have a voice, but they suppress members who don’t agree with them. Andy Stern also says labor law should be changed so that if a simple majority sign cards, an employer should recognize the union. We’ll see if he and SEIU walk away and leave us alone now that majorities have signed petitions saying we want NUHW.”

The NLRB is expected to schedule elections within the next 42 days for the 9,000 nursing homes and hospitals named in today’s NUHW filing. NUHW filed petitions at four Daughters of Charity facilities, Children’s Hospital of Oakland, four Sutter facilities, including Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and California Pacific Medical Center, as well as several nursing homes chains and independent nursing homes.