SEIU forfeits first NLRB contest to NUHW

September 23rd, 2009

In the first contest between SEIU and the National Union of Healthcare Workers overseen by the NLRB, SEIU has abandoned its effort after failing to win any support among environmental services workers at Los Alamitos Hospital.

Employees of Los Alamitos Hospital subcontractor Hospital Housekeeping Systems (HHS) had never been part of a union before they filed petitions to join NUHW in March. Now that SEIU has withdrawn their effort to divide HHS employees, the workers will vote to choose between NUHW and “No Union” on Sept. 28.

“SEIU never intended to represent us, they just wanted to stop us from forming a union with NUHW,” said Mercedes Cornejo, a housekeeper at the hospital. “I can’t believe that so-called union leaders would try to stand in the way of workers like me who want a voice to protect our wages and jobs.”

An election had been scheduled for May, but SEIU filed frivolous “blocking charges” with the NLRB to delay the election. When the NLRB lifted the blocking charge, SEIU petitioned for a spot on the ballot with signatures of support from only two workers.

This is not the first time SEIU officials have tried to block non-union workers from joining NUHW. Worker at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital have been organizing since 2003 to win a free and fair election agreement with the St. Joseph Health System. Management finally promised to negotiate ground rules, and a strong majority signed cards to join NUHW in March.

Frivolous blocking charges filed by SEIU delayed Santa Rosa Memorial workers’ election for almost five months, during which time nearly 200 workers at Memorial have been laid off, their pay has been frozen, and workers there are now in danger of losing their sick time. Just after the NLRB lifted the first blocking charge, SEIU tried to file another. When that effort failed, SEIU officials filed to intervene.

“SEIU officials think if they can’t have us, no one can,” said Noelle Preston, a dietary aide at Santa Rosa Memorial. “But healthcare workers aren’t property. NUHW was founded by healthcare workers, for healthcare workers, and it’s our choice to be part of a union that we control.”