Kaiser workers at stake in union battle

NewsAugust 19, 2011

San Francisco Chronicle:

By Victoria Colliver

Friday, August 19, 2011

The ongoing contentious battle between two unions in one of the largest private-sector elections in U.S. history – representation of workers at Kaiser Permanente – is heating up again.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers filed new evidence Thursday with federal officials alleging that rival Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West is colluding with the health care giant to sway worker allegiance in what continues to be a highly contested dispute.

The filing comes after the National Labor Relations Board on Aug. 10 ordered a rerun of last fall’s elections involving more than 44,000 Kaiser employees after discounting the results due to allegations of misconduct.

In October 2010, Kaiser employees voted by a strong margin to stick with SEIU rather than switch to NUHW, a newer union that broke away from SEIU in 2009. SEIU garnered 61.7 percent of the nearly 30,000 mail-in ballots cast compared to 38.3 percent for the upstart.

NUHW immediately contested the results, accusing both SEIU and Kaiser, which is headquartered in Oakland, of running a fear-based campaign and impeding employees’ free choice. A labor board administrative law judge found in July that SEIU had impeded employees’ free choice, and the board ordered a new election.

“We need a new election, but we don’t want it under the same conditions that allowed SEIU and Kaiser to cheat during the last election,” said Leighton Woodhouse, spokesman for NUHW, expressing concern that the judge did not find Kaiser guilty of similar conduct.

Read the full article at The San Francisco Chronicle.