San Gabriel Valley Tribune: factious union dispute at Baldwin Park’s Kaiser Permanente

NewsAugust 15, 2010

By Thomas Himes

A winner-take-all union campaign is leading to police calls and allegations of threats at the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center as labor unions compete for control of 43,500 employees throughout the state, according to authorities and officials.

Baldwin Park police have been left to referee factious protests, authorities and officials said.
The dispute is building up to a Sept. 13 election in which Service Employees International Union (SEIU) could lose control of 43,500 employees to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), according to authorities.

“There are at least six or seven employees who had their cars vandalized over the past year,” said Fred Seavey, NUHW research director. “The level of threats that have been made against workers are so severe … they’re afraid to walk out to their cars alone.”

A Superior Court commissioner issued a restraining order against an SEIU organizer July 16 following allegations she made death threats against an NUHW supporter in the center’s lunch room, according to court documents and members of the NUHW.

The restrained SEIU organizer declined to comment.

An SEIU officials said the allegations of threats have “no real basis in reality.”

“The judge didn’t even order her to stop working in the hospital,” SEIU spokeswoman Steve Trossman said. “This is just a public relations campaign.”

Baldwin Park police within the past two months respondedto three alleged violations of the restraining order and filed reports, but did not make an arrest, Baldwin Park police Lt. David Reynoso said.

Police could not immediately how many cases of vandalism at the hospital had recently been reported.
The election was prompted after 13,000 SEIU members signed a petition regarding their union representation, authorities said.

The union members were dissatisfied by contract negotiations that resulted in layoffs and cuts in health care and retirement benefits, Seavey said.

“The way workers explain it to me, is SEIU is in bed with the boss,” Seavey said. “They’ve allowed Kaiser to lay off 1,800 workers, cut pensions and gut their contracts.”

Seavey said Kaiser-Permanente has done everything in its power to keep SEIU in control, an allegation Kaiser-Permanente spokesman Jim Anderson denied.

“In the big picture, we’re neutral and our primary goal is to make sure whatever campaigning goes on is not disruptive to the patients,” Anderson said.

A federal investigation found evidence Kaiser-Permanente staff violated the federally protected rights of NUHW supporters to organize a union, according to documents and supporters.

The National Labor Relations Board launched its investigation following several complaints from employees who favor NUHW.

The complaints alleged that Kaiser-Permanente staff: surveilled them, barred them from talking about NUHW, prohibited them from distributing union material and denied them access to the building for campaigning on their days off, according to documents, Seavey and officials.

“We alleged they violated the National Labor Relations Act by their actions associated with these allegations,” said James Small, director of the region’s National Labor Relations Board.

“I believe there was a preponderance of evidence to go forward,” Small said.

The matter never went before a judge, as Kaiser-Permanente signed off an agreement denouncing the alleged activity without admitting guilt, according to documents and officials.

“The only allegations I’m aware of were resolved,” Anderson said.

The settlement agreement was dated July 20, according to documents and officials.

The next day, police were called out to a report of a vandalized car.

Police don’t know who damaged the car, Reynoso said.

Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune