SEIU Collusion with Sutter Denies Workers Their Fair Choice of Unions at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center

NewsJanuary 21, 2011

Workers pledge to fight for fair re-run of election

OAKLAND – Ballot counting ended today for 1,100 employees at three campuses of Sutter-owned Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in a representation election between a trusteed local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) completed the vote count with a final tally of 510 for SEIU to 448 for NUHW, with 21 votes for “No union.”

“I’m proud of the work we did organizing our co-workers and helping them see through SEIU’s barrage of lies,” said Shayne Silva, a 30-year Psychiatric Technician. “The only way SEIU was able to win this election was by misleading people into believing they could lose their raises and benefits by joining NUHW, which two judges have asserted is false. NUHW supporters ran a campaign based on the truth, not on fear and misinformation.”

In 2009, a majority of workers at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center petitioned for an election to decertify SEIU and join NUHW. The election comes after two years of delays by the NLRB, prompted by specious objections filed by SEIU.

As Alta Bates Summit employees waited for their chance to vote, SEIU overwhelmed workers with mailers, leaflets, and phone calls claiming that under the law, if they voted for NUHW they would lose the raises and benefits guaranteed in their contract with SEIU.

This misrepresentation of labor law by SEIU has been exposed as fictitious in federal court as a result of charges NUHW lodged against Kaiser Permanente last year.  After Kaiser retaliated against 2,300 workers in Southern California who voted to join NUHW by withholding raises and benefits that were scheduled in their prior contract with SEIU, two judges admonished Kaiser for breaking the law and ordered the company to reinstate the terms and conditions of employment under the contract, which Kaiser has done.  A hearing is scheduled before an NLRB administrative law judge on February 7 that could lead to an overturning of last year’s election for 43,000 Kaiser employees based on Kaiser’s unlawful actions against NUHW members.

As in the Kaiser election, at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, SEIU sought and received the employer’s assistance in its campaign to dissuade workers from supporting NUHW.  Sutter Health, the hospital’s corporate parent, granted preferential access to SEIU staff while barring NUHW organizers from worksites.  Hospital administrators circulated letters affirming SEIU’s false claim that workers would forfeit their contract gains by voting to join NUHW.  And management illegally terminated a 31-year employee, Beverly Griffith, for her advocacy for NUHW.

Last summer, an administrative law judge found Sutter in violation of the law for firing Griffith and charged the company with colluding with the incumbent union.  The judge’s ruling stated: 

“I believe that, having become aware of its bargaining unit employees’ antipathy towards the SEIU-UHW by virtue of their decertification petition and of the NUHW’s nascent organizing efforts amongst said employees, Respondent [Sutter Health] favored the SEIU-UHW and embarked upon a campaign designed to quell its employees’ suspected growing support for the NUHW.”

“…Respondent [Sutter Health] redefined its solicitation/distribution policies on March 20 and March 23 specifically in order to hinder said employees’ actions in support of the NUHW. In this regard, I note that Respondent placed no similar restrictions upon SEIU-UHW agents, who utilized its cafeterias to meet with bargaining unit employees in order to discuss union business and distribute literature… I reiterate my view that said redefinitions were designed to impede the SEIU-UHW bargaining unit employees from engaging in support of the NUHW.”

Workers are determined to continue the fight to join NUHW.

“SEIU was Sutter’s choice in this election, and Sutter did everything they could to help SEIU win, including lying to workers,” said Andrea Garcia, an Environmental Services worker.  “We’re going to fight to make sure this election is overturned and we get a chance to vote in a fair election without illegal collusion between SEIU and our employer.”