Labor board could overturn union elections over hospital’s illegal interference

NewsJune 10, 2010

Management gave SEIU full access to campaign while threatening the jobs of NUHW supporters if they discussed election

San Jose and Gilroy, Calif.—The National Labor Relations Board has impounded more than 500 ballots in a contentious union election at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose after workers reported that management violated federal labor law by allowing only one side to be heard. At Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, similar charges will be filed after management interference affected the outcome of a close election between SEIU and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

“It’s our decision which union is best for us, and it’s against the law for management to take sides like this,” said Susan Reddell, a respiratory therapist at Saint Louise. “We want the labor board to protect our right to a fair election and let us choose without intimidation and threats of discipline.”

Hospital workers say their employer, the Daughters of Charity Health System, preferred the incumbent union because SEIU had agreed to a wage freeze and healthcare takeaways, and that the employer illegally interfered with their legal right to organize with the new union, NUHW.

A majority of caregivers at the hospital asked the labor board for an election in February 2009, but the vote was held up by a series of bogus legal maneuvers SEIU filed with the labor board, arguing that it wouldn’t be fair to let workers vote. At two other Daughters of Charity facilities in the Bay Area, SEIU is still denying workers the right to vote.

While stalling elections for 16 months, SEIU was given free access to campaign openly in the facilities. After the election was scheduled at O’Connor, management actually changed their policies to give additional access to SEIU, while threatening to discipline NUHW supporters if they spoke to co-workers about the election. This violation of federal law led to the labor board’s decision to impound the ballots, and along with other violations could result in new, fair elections for workers at both hospitals to join NUHW.

Caregivers at St. Louise and O’Connor hospitals are part of a movement of thousands of SEIU members who have made NUHW the fastest-growing union in California. The movement began last January, when SEIU officials from Washington, D.C. took over California’s healthcare union, forced healthcare workers from elected positions, and put themselves in charge. The next day, dozens of healthcare workers voted to establish NUHW as a new, independent union.

Workers at more than 360 facilities have petitioned to join NUHW in the last 16 months, and most are still waiting for their elections. More than 5,000 caregivers at Kaiser facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes have already joined NUHW, and elections are expected for almost 60,000 more this year.

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is California’s fastest-growing union, representing caregivers in every job classification. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and Kaiser Permanente facilities have petitioned for elections to join NUHW and win a strong, democratic voice at work. |

Management gave SEIU full access to campaign while threatening the jobs of NUHW supporters if they discussed election