Sacramento Press: New health care union grows in California

NewsApril 12, 2009

by Seth Sandronsky

Employees at nursing homes in Sacramento, Woodland and Pacifica, operated by North American Health Care, Inc., left the Service Employees International Union to join the new National Union of Healthcare Workers on March 17.

“The new union tells us the truth about our contract negotiations with the employer,” said Ulette Bloomer, a cook and union steward on the night shift at Valley Skilled Nursing Home, by Sacramento’s UCD Medical Center. “SEIU was not honest about that and kept giving us the runaround.”

The former SEIU employees, 350 in all, are the first-ever members of NUHW. They will remain covered by the current collective bargaining agreement with North American Health Care, Inc. Meanwhile, the NUHW’s elected bargaining team will negotiate a new agreement with the for-profit employer.

To choose NUHW, the previously SEIU-represented employees signed petitions in a majority sign-up, a National Labor Relations Board-approved process. Shirley Campbell of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service, a neutral third party, validated the signatures of the employees who have joined the new health care union.

NUHW formed on January 28, a day after SEIU placed its United Healthcare Workers-West local of 150,000 Northern California members into a trusteeship, a legal move to seize financial and political control of the affiliate. SEIU President Andy Stern, not the rank-and-file, propelled the maneuver. The trusteeship merged three California affiliates of caregivers into a single local statewide under Stern’s appointed leaders.

Because of the trusteeship, all UHW’s elected leaders, beginning with Sal Rosselli, its former president, were removed. Rosselli, in a drawn-out conflict with Stern over health-care reform and union growth in California, was accused of misusing members’ money. He disputes the charges of financial mismanagement.

Rosselli is the current president of NUHW. Other UHW officials such as John Borsos from Sacramento, also ousted in the SEIU trusteeship, join Rosselli in leading NUHW.

“NUHW is a splinter group led by the disgraced and ousted former leaders of UHW,” said Michelle Ringuette, SEIU spokeswoman. SEIU, with 2 million members, is the biggest union in the Change to Win partnership. CTW’s six million members in seven unions departed the AFL-CIO in 2005.

Over 95,000 SEIU workers in and out of health care statewide have petitioned the NLRB to join NUHW, according to Sadie Crabtree, spokeswoman for the fledgling union. The most recent SEIU-represented petitioners range from health care workers to childcare, public safety and sanitation employees in Monterey County (Salinas), she said

Source: Sacramento Press