My experience with SEIU’s “raise calculator”

NewsSeptember 28, 2012

My name is Paul O’Neill and I work as an ER Tech at Kaiser Santa Clara. Like all of you reading this, I love and take pride in the work that I do.

I support NUHW because as a healthcare worker I think that Kaiser workers deserve a union that puts workers first, instead of a so-called “partnership” with management.

On  Tuesday, SEIU-UHW came to our cafeteria to promote their “raise calculator.” I went up to the table and asked for them to calculate my “raise.”

There were a couple things that bothered me about the conversation.

First, SEIU didn’t tell the whole truth. Yes, they quoted me a dollar figure. But SEIU didn’t explain that the number is 9 cents an hour less than it would have been if SEIU hadn’t agreed to take 9 cents an hour from every hour worked and give it to the Kaiser LMP in the form a partnership tax. SEIU also didn’t mention that according to their own Constitution our monthly dues in Northern California can go up by $4 a month every year.

I had to mention both those facts to SEIU’s representatives since they didn’t mention them up front. That didn’t sit well with me.

The second thing that bothered me was that SEIU had only weak answers to my questions.  For example, SEIU didn’t have a good answer to why, when we get to the end of SEIU’s latest contract, we will have gone for ten years without local bargaining at Kaiser. Nor did SEIU have any good answer why they included language in their TAs with Kaiser (pg. 17, Section 4) creating a “joint process for looking at restructuring work away from the bargaining unit.” When I showed that passage to them, they said it wasn’t their “intent” to allow subcontracting!

SEIU officials also didn’t have any good answer as to why they cut a deal with Kaiser to freeze our retiree health benefits and to lower our lump sum pension payout. They certainly didn’t have a calculator to help us understand what we’ve lost with those two agreements! In fact, no one I talked to from SEIU seemed prepared to answer basic questions about how their latest deal with Kaiser affects Kaiser workers.

There’s something wrong with that picture.

You see, our union used to be OF the workers, FOR the workers, not people in purple t-shirts coming to our facility to sell us on SEIU’s latest “deal” with their friends in Kaiser management.  

Kaiser Permanente has made more than $7.4 billion in profits since 2009.  SEIU never talks about that. That’s because SEIU is a union that is focused on partnership with Kaiser, not on how to benefit Kaiser healthcare workers.

That’s why SEIU is Kaiser management’s preferred union.

And that’s why NUHW is my choice at Kaiser.

Paul O’Neill, ER Tech, Kaiser Santa Clara
National Union of Healthcare Workers