Labor Council urges SEIU not to obstruct six-year union effort at Santa Rosa Memorial

NewsOctober 1, 2009

Santa Rosa, Calif.—The North Bay Labor Council sent a letter today to the trustees of SEIU-UHW, asking them not to delay or obstruct efforts by workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital to form a union with the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The Council represents more than 60 unions across Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, and Lake counties.

“It is clear that Memorial workers have chosen NUHW as their union,” wrote Council President Jack Buckhorn and Executive Director Lisa Maldonado.

“We respectfully ask that SEIU-UHW respect these workers’ choice and withdraw from the election at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital so that these workers can finally have the successful election they have worked so hard and risked so much for.”

(Full letter:

Workers at Santa Rosa Memorial, a facility owned by the St. Joseph Health System, have been organizing to win a union since 2003. Their effort drew national headlines last fall, as clergy, labor leaders, and elected officials united to support their struggle. (New York Times:

In January, SEIU launched a hostile takeover against the local healthcare union SEIU-UHW, removing the healthcare workers elected to run the union as well as the leaders who had been helping Memorial workers organize for six years to win their union. SEIU appointed new officials from Washington, D.C. who showed no interest in the workers at the hospital.

Memorial workers turned to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), an independent union founded by former members and leaders of SEIU-UHW.

In April, an overwhelming majority of Memorial workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election to join NUHW. That petition should have triggered an election within 45 days—but SEIU-UHW filed “blocking charges” with the NLRB that delayed the election for five months. When the NLRB rejected SEIU-UHW’s charges, SEIU-UHW secured a spot on the ballot so they could campaign against the workers’ chosen union.

“The support of Sonoma County elected, religious and labor leaders has been so important to our campaign to win our union,” said Mito Gonzales, a clinical lab assistant and member of the NUHW organizing committee.

“We’re glad the North Bay Labor Council is standing in support of the majority of Memorial workers and respecting the choice we made. If SEIU-UHW really wants to support the workers here, they should stop standing in our way.”

Nearly 200 Memorial workers have been laid off during the time that SEIU-UHW has prevented them from forming a union.

# # #

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. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, Kaiser Permanente facilities, homecare, and nursing homes have petitioned to join NUHW since January 2009.