NUHW Appealing to Labor Board to Find Kaiser Guilty of Unlawful Aid to SEIU

NewsJuly 27, 2011

Kaiser and SEIU further colluding to force re-run under unlawful conditions

Emeryville, California – The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) is filing exceptions to the July 14 ruling by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Lana Parke that found the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) guilty of “coercive” conduct in last year’s election for 43,000 employees of Kaiser Permanente.

The NLRB decision, which dismissed the results of the September 2010 election between SEIU and NUHW, rightly held that SEIU’s election misconduct “interfered with the employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice among employees.” But the ruling failed to acknowledge the direct assistance SEIU received from Kaiser Permanente in engaging in its misconduct, or to find Kaiser equally culpable for deliberately corrupting the election environment.

Kaiser enabled SEIU to engage in illegal campaign activity by unlawfully withholding wage increases and other promised benefits to 2,300 Southern California professional employees and registered nurses who voted overwhelmingly to be represented by NUHW in January 2010. During the more recent election, Kaiser allowed hundreds of SEIU’s outside, paid organizers extraordinary access and provided other aid to SEIU that it unlawfully withheld from NUHW.

SEIU made Kaiser’s illegal treatment of its 2,300 Southern California employees the centerpiece of a multimillion dollar communications blitz designed to intimidate the 43,000 workers eligible to vote in the September 2010 election from casting ballots for NUHW. Last year, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge ruled that Kaiser’s conduct was illegal and forced the HMO to pay millions in backpay to the employees it discriminated against.

Judge Parke ruled that SEIU’s communications campaign “invited, if not provoked, the obvious inference that Kaiser’s [illegal] conduct would be repeated … [having] the tendency to interfere with the employees’ freedom of choice.” Judge Parke also found that SEIU “was joined in its warnings by Kaiser’s President [Ben] Chu.” However, even while acknowledging the synergy between the public messages of the two parties, the judge’s ruling failed to hold Kaiser accountable for its indispensable role in a joint effort between the employer and the incumbent union to coerce workers into remaining in SEIU through a campaign of baseless economic threats.

Faced with eroding support for SEIU at Kaiser worksites, yesterday, both Kaiser and SEIU in similarly worded letters urged the NLRB to re-run the election quickly, without giving the Board an opportunity to hold Kaiser accountable and to restore the conditions that would make it possible for the election to be run free from intimidation and coercion from either Kaiser or SEIU.

Last year, NUHW filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Kaiser for its central role in corrupting the election. That charge was tabled by the NLRB until after the Board resolved the issues that led to last week’s ruling by Judge Parke. NUHW is now pursuing a decision by the NLRB on the ULP, and seeks a public admission of misconduct by both SEIU and Kaiser, to be posted in Kaiser facilities and mailed to eligible voters. Only a public notice from the culpable parties can fully eliminate the confusion on the part of workers about the legal issues at stake that remains as a residue of last year’s misinformation campaign by Kaiser and SEIU, and establish the conditions for a free and fair election re-run.

“The NLRB held SEIu accountable for cheating in last year’s election, and that’s a good thing,” said Angela Glasper, an Optical Clerk at Kaiser Antioch. “But they let Kaiser completely off the hook. That’s like finding someone guilty for firing the gun, but totally overlooking the guy who bought the weapon, loaded it, cocked it, and a handed it to the shooter.”

“Kaiser and its company union, SEIU, are partners in crime. Both acted unlawfully and both need to be held accountable,” said Roy Chaffee from the Call Center at Kaiser Vallejo. “Kaiser preferred SEIU in the first election and its actions demonstrate that this is still the case. Kaiser has reason to be afraid of NUHW because Kaiser knows workers will support a union that’s ready to hold it accountable.”