North Bay Business Journal editorial: a rebuke of SEIU

NewsFebruary 17, 2010

International Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern may have an open invitation to the White House, visiting there 22 times in the first six months of the Obama Administration, more than anyone else, according to visitor logs.

But health care workers are increasingly telling the SEIU to take a hike.

In Sonoma County, when 675 technicians and other workers at Memorial Hospital finally got the opportunity to vote on union representation, just 13 votes — that is not a typo — went to the SEIU.

In Los Angeles late last month, a rival union to the SEIU won overwhelmingly in three elections impacting 2,300 Kaiser Permanente workers.

The National Union of Health Care Workers estimates that 100,000 SEIU members could choose to switch unions in upcoming elections.

These battles have been brewing since 2008 when SEIU pushed out local union leaders, who subsequently founded the National Union of Health Care Workers.

 That upstart union is now winning elections. At Memorial, it received 283 votes.

The election is unresolved because of objections raised by Memorial, where 263 workers voted for no union.

The SEIU tactics to delay the Memorial vote won it harsh rebukes from regional and national labor groups. Following the lopsided vote, SEIU took it upon itself to challenge 17 ballots. It required weeks to resolve the issue and ended with all of the ballots either being tossed or found not to impact the results.

This infighting comes at a moment when for the first time, in 2009, the number of unionized workers who work for the government surpassed those in the private sector.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last week, 51.4 percent of America’s 15.4 million union members, or about 7.91 million employees, were employed by the government in 2009. “As recently as 1980,” the Journal said, “there were more than twice as many private as public union members.”

The U.S. has reached a point where unions, including SEIU, have outsized power to tap the public purse, even at a time when total union membership continues to decline.

SEIU’s questionable tactics in local and California union elections should raise warning flags about its growing influence in local, state and federal governments.

Source: North Bay Business Journal.