Mission Neighborhood Caregivers Vote to Leave SEIU and Join NUHW as Alta Bates Summit Workers Prepare to Follow

Press ReleasesSeptember 5, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, in a vote of 43 to 2, 49 workers at Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) in San Francisco became the newest members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

Before today, MNHC caregivers were members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Unhappy with SEIU’s poor representation and employer-friendly approach to bargaining, workers demonstrated such clear majority support for NUHW that SEIU disclaimed interest in the bargaining unit and left the election uncontested.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Bay, a supermajority of SEIU-represented healthcare workers at Sutter Health-owned Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (ABSMC) in Berkeley and Oakland filed petitions yesterday with the National Labor Relations Board for an election to leave SEIU and join NUHW. About 1,100 ABSMC workers will participate in the election.

In 2009, SEIU managers in Washington DC took control of the ABSMC workers’ local union, United Healthcare Workers West (UHW), in a hostile takeover to quash rank-and-file dissent over SEIU’s lack of internal democracy and its cozy relationships with hospital corporations.

Since the takeover, representation of workers has all but disappeared at ABSMC, workers’ contract provisions have gone unenforced, and SEIU has settled substandard contract agreements that include wage freezes, healthcare benefit reductions and other giveaways to management. In its recent contract settlement, SEIU allowed management to subcontract ten percent of the workforce with more to come, and took steps toward establishing a ‘wellness program’ that penalizes workers for not meeting personal health benchmarks, just as SEIU has done at Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Health.

Earlier this year, about 750 UHW members at ABSMC’s sister hospital in San Francisco, Sutter-owned California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), freed themselves from SEIU’s control by voting to bolt SEIU and join NUHW. ABSMC workers will soon have the chance to follow their CPMC co-workers’ lead.

“We’re tired of SEIU’s refusal to represent members or enforce our contract,” said Bernard Griffin, a Surgical Services Aide at ABSMC’s Summit campus in Oakland. “We’ve had it with SEIU’s backroom deals with management. We know that as NUHW members, we’ll settle a contract with raises and NO takeaways, just as NUHW has done all over the state.”

ABSMC employees are preparing to join with thousands of other Bay Area caregivers in addition to those at CPMC and MNHC who have voted to switch from SEIU to NUHW in the last 24 months, including workers at Children’s Hospital Oakland, Doctors Medical Center San Pablo, Kindred Hospital San Leandro, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, San Francisco Nursing Center, The Sequoias Portola Valley, and mental health and optical workers at Kaiser Permanente clinics and medical centers.

ABSMC workers covered by the upcoming election include housekeepers, nursing aides, licensed vocational nurses, clerical workers, patient transporters and distribution workers.