Majority of 1,300 Kaiser mental health professionals petition to join new union

NewsJune 2, 2010

After Southern Calif. professionals joined NUHW in three landslide elections, Northern Calif. pros begin the switch from SEIU

Oakland, Calif.—A majority of 1,300 mental health professionals at Kaiser have signed a petition to change their union from SEIU to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), requesting the first Northern California election in a growing effort by Kaiser’s 47,000 SEIU members statewide to take back their union.

“We’re thrilled for the chance to join the rest of Kaiser’s mental health professionals in a member-run union that will help us improve care for our patients and clients,” said Emily Ryan, a psychiatric social worker at Kaiser Sacramento. “And we’re proud to be the first of the 47,000 Kaiser workers who will petition this month to join NUHW.”

June 3 marks the beginning of a 30-day window period when Kaiser employees have the guaranteed legal right to change unions, and members of Kaiser’s Integrated Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) unit are set to file their petition on Day One. Their majority petition puts them well on the way to winning their election and joining Southern California Kaiser professionals, who joined NUHW in three landslide elections in January.

Over the next month, three more groups of Kaiser employees will also petition to join NUHW: Northern California healthcare professionals, optical and lab workers, and a statewide unit of 45,000 service and tech workers. NUHW is a rank-and-file movement of healthcare workers who are taking back their union after SEIU officials siezed control in January 2009, and these elections are being watched and supported by union activists across the country.

Today’s announcement puts a damper on SEIU’s hype around their recent contract settlement at Kaiser, which SEIU officials had hoped would stop members from organizing to join NUHW. Workers say the effect of the settlement was just the opposite.

“SEIU took away our voice in our workplace, and settled a contract that has the lowest wage increases in 15 years, puts our health insurance at risk, and takes away our strength to negotiate locally for the improvements we need, like better staffing levels and other issues we have in our professional practice,” said Ryan.

“We formed NUHW to bring back the strong union that we had for decades, that won the highest standards in California for healthcare workers and our patients.”

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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. |