San Francisco Chronicle: Nursing home workers join new union

NewsMarch 19, 2009

By George Raine

About 350 employees at four Northern California nursing homes are the first workers to align with the National Union of Healthcare Workers, a new union formed in January by a group of California labor leaders ousted by Service Employees International Union.

The new union is led by Sal Rosselli, who had been president of the 150,000-member SEIU local in Oakland, United Healthcare Workers-West, until he was removed for allegedly misusing member dues, a charge he denied.

Rosselli and the president of SEIU, Andy Stern, have deep philosophical differences about union leadership, and the acrimony between the two of them and their respective camps remains sharp.

This week, National Union of Healthcare Workers said that a majority of union-represented workers at four nursing homes managed by North American Health Care, Inc. of Dana Point (Orange County) had cast votes in favor of representation by the new union and to end their labor relationship with SEIU.

The homes are Valley Skilled Nursing Home, Sacramento; Cottonwood Healthcare Center and Woodland Skilled Nursing Center, both in Woodland (Yolo County), and Linda Mar Rehabilitation, Pacifica.

Majority sign-up is a process, authorized under federal labor law, that allows workers to choose their union directly, but that labor-friendly method is only possible if employers go along with the idea. Most employers, also under labor law, insist that workers decide about labor representation in a secret ballot election, which permits managers to make a case against unions.

In the case of nursing home workers, there was no election and a retired state labor mediator, Shirley Campbell, served as a neutral third party to verify the new union has the support of the majority.

The new union representation was announced on Monday. On Tuesday, SEIU filed unfair labor practice charges against the four nursing homes saying their administrators had illegally withdrawn union recognition and colluded with a rival labor organization.

Rosselli said those charges demonstrate the hypocrisy of SEIU and Stern. He said SEIU professes on one hand to be in favor of legislation pending in Congress that would allow unions to form without elections being mandatory, and on the other the union tries to thwart majority sign-up at the nursing homes.

Michelle Ringuette, a spokeswoman for SEIU, called Rosselli “an expert on hypocrisy” and said charges will be filed against any other employer who “chooses to collude” with the new union.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle