Labor Board Throws Out Results of Another Kaiser Election

NewsJuly 27, 2011

Judge finds SEIU guilty of election misconduct for second time in a week

Washington, DC – For the second time in a week, an Administrative Law Judge for the National Labor Relations Board has recommended throwing out the results of a union election at Kaiser Permanente due to unlawful conduct by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and by the employer.

Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke has called for a new election for approximately 378 Medical Social Workers in Northern California who went through an election last year between SEIU and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Workers voted in that election to remain in SEIU by a margin of just nine votes.

Judge Parke concluded that SEIU engaged in election misconduct by building its campaign around threats related to Kaiser Permanente’s unlawful decision to withhold an estimated $2 million in scheduled raises and benefits from 2,300 Southern California Kaiser employees who voted overwhelmingly to be represented by NUHW in January 2010. Both the NLRB and a federal judge have ruled that Kaiser’s treatment of the Southern California workers was illegal, and ordered Kaiser to restitute their lost wages and benefits.

Despite its illegality, SEIU made reference to Kaiser’s misconduct the centerpiece of its campaign to intimidate workers from supporting NUHW.

“Insofar as (SEIU’s) campaign focused on Kaiser’s conduct in the SoCal-pro units, its objective effect was to warn employees that they jeopardized monetary benefits if they changed representatives,” (p. 11) Judge Parke wrote. “…Under those circumstances, the known existence of the facts had, at the very least, the tendency to interfere with employees’ freedom of choice” (p. 12). 

In a ruling released last week, on identical grounds, Judge Parke recommended throwing out the results of a separate 2010 contest between SEIU and NUHW for 43,000 Kaiser employees and scheduling a new election.

In a new development, Judge Parke also cited SEIU for threatening workers that it would “forever bar” NUHW from participating in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and would thereby deprive workers of various employment benefits if they voted to join NUHW. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is a collection of unions that negotiates jointly with Kaiser.

During the election, SEIU distributed a letter by John August, Executive Director of the Coalition, that described the grounds for the Coalition’s exclusion of NUHW. SEIU used the letter to threaten cuts in workers’ benefits if they joined NUHW. The threat, deemed unlawful in Judge Parke’s decision, served as yet another example of SEIU’s collusion with Kaiser to discriminate against workers who refused to support Kaiser’s union of choice.

Workers are now preparing for a re-run of last year’s tainted election. “Since the election, we thought SEIU might put some effort into winning back some of the confidence members have lost in them, but actually, things have gotten a lot worse,” said Amy Thigpenn, a Medical Social Worker at Kaiser Oakland. “SEIU’s representation of workers is as bad as ever. We’re relieved SEIU didn’t get away with breaking the law, and now we have another chance to join NUHW in a free and fair election.”

Out of seven Kaiser bargaining units that have now gone through elections between NUHW and SEIU, five have voted to join NUHW, and the two that voted to stay with SEIU have had their election results thrown out due to SEIU misconduct.

Read Judge Parke’s decision: