NUHW union election set for Dec. 17 at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital

NewsNovember 2, 2009

SEIU folds under pressure from workers, religious leaders, and labor council—but still won’t agree to ground rules

Santa Rosa, Calif.—After six years of struggle against their employer and six months of obstruction by a rival organization, victory is in sight for caregivers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital who are organizing to form a union with the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The National Labor Relations Board today scheduled their union election for Dec. 17 and 18.

“I’m so glad the delay is over,” said Melissa Bosanco, a care partner at Memorial Hospital. “Now we can form our union with NUHW and focus on what’s important: making our hospital a better place to work and a better place for our patients.”

A majority of the hospital’s 650 workers chose NUHW on April 13, when they filed a petition with the labor board requesting an election to certify NUHW as their union.

A rival organization, SEIU-UHW, had twice obstructed the labor board’s process by filing frivolous charges that were ultimately rejected. But SEIU-UHW allowed today’s labor board hearing to proceed unimpeded, and joined NUHW and Memorial Hospital in agreeing on a date for the election.

The scheduled election is a partial victory for local labor leaders, the faith community, and Memorial workers themselves, all of whom have called for SEIU-UHW to stand aside.

On Oct. 1, the North Bay Labor Council urged SEIU-UHW to withdraw from the election.1 On Oct. 23, fifteen religious leaders from Sonoma County and across the country called on SEIU-UHW to stop delaying the election and agree to negotiate fair ground rules with Memorial Hospital and NUHW.2 Monsignor John Brinkle, Pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church, penned an op-ed in today’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat accusing SEIU of “misusing labor law” to deny workers the right to vote and form their union.3

Despite conceding to an election date, SEIU-UHW is still refusing to agree to any ground rules for their behavior in the campaign, including having a neutral umpire to make sure there are no violations. Both NUHW and Memorial Hospital have agreed to meet and negotiate ground rules, but SEIU-UHW Trustee Eliseo Medina has refused to negotiate unless NUHW—the workers’ chosen union—is excluded.4

Medina’s refusal to negotiate fair ground rules “flies in the face of Catholic social teaching and contradicts SEIU’s own national advocacy,” Msgr. Brenkle wrote in today’s Press Democrat.

SEIU and other unions have long maintained that negotiated ground rules are necessary to allow workers a fair choice, free of harassment and intimidation. Two common rules in such agreements are that all parties must refrain from negative campaigning and use only truthful information.

SEIU-UHW officials have so far waged a destructive anti-union campaign focused on trying to undermine caregivers’ majority support for NUHW, using misleading mailers and harassing NUHW supporters at home and at work. Now that the election date has been set, caregivers expect SEIU-UHW to escalate their campaign.

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, Kaiser Permanente facilities, homecare, and nursing homes have petitioned to join NUHW since January 2009. |