NLRB sets date for biggest union election in 70 years

NewsJuly 31, 2010

44,000 Kaiser workers win the right to join NUHW and leave SEIU in a mail ballot election starting Sept. 13

SAN FRANCISCO—The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a government-protected mail ballot election beginning Sept. 13 for nearly 44,000 Kaiser Permanente workers to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers and kick out the incumbent union SEIU. For the thousands of Kaiser workers who began petitioning the labor board to join NUHW more than 17 months ago, victory is finally in sight.

“We’re voting NUHW to protect our raises and benefits, and get our union back under the control of the members,” said Yolanda Chavez, a senior licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser Oakland for 20 years. “We need a stronger voice at work, and a union that will tell us what’s really going on.”

The vote will be the largest private-sector union election since the 1940s.

NUHW is California’s fastest-growing union, made up of thousands of healthcare workers across the state who have rejected unaccountable SEIU leaders who exclude members from important decisions about their jobs and benefits. Instead, NUHW supporters are choosing a union where decisions are made by Kaiser workers themselves.

More than 2,300 Kaiser workers joined NUHW this January in three landslide elections. One of their first accomplishments was winning 171 new positions at Kaiser’s flagship Los Angeles hospital, a victory for patient care that also creates more quality jobs with good pay and benefits.

The federal government has stepped in to protect Kaiser workers’ promised raises and benefits when they join NUHW. Kaiser management is already required by federal law to maintain the terms and conditions of the union contract when workers change unions, yet management tried to flout the law in April by not giving a scheduled 2 percent raise to employees who joined NUHW. Workers filed a charge, and the National Labor Relations Board announced they would hold a hearing to make sure Kaiser management follows the law.

Today’s election date announcement caps several meetings between the unions and the NLRB to determine details of the election. Last week, NUHW won an important agreement for a vote-by-mail election to protect workers’ right to vote in private. SEIU had insisted that employees should be forced to vote in the workplace, where Kaiser managers and SEIU staff have exclusive access and have worked to prevent voters from hearing both sides.

SEIU continues to plead its case to the National Labor Relations Board on separate petitions for nearly 2,000 other Kaiser workers, to whom SEIU hopes to deny the right to vote entirely. Attorneys representing Kaiser workers believe SEIU’s arguments have little chance of success and are merely a tactic to delay elections SEIU believes they will lose.

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is California’s fastest-growing union, representing caregivers in every job classification. NUHW is dedicated to member democracy, dignity and justice for healthcare workers, and quality, affordable healthcare for all. |