SF Business Times: Workers at Doctors hospital vote to join new union, dump SEIU

NewsMay 21, 2009

by Chris Rauber

Staffers at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo voted to join the new National Union of Healthcare Workers and dump the Service Employees International Union as their bargaining representative.

NUHW is an SEIU splinter group headed by Sal Rosselli, the former longtime president of SEIU’s Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers West unit.

The newbie union said Thursday that hospital workers at Doctors Medical Center voted by 158 to 24 to replace SEIU with Rosselli’s new union in secret balloting that was certified by the California Public Employment Relations Board.

Seven hospital workers of about 290 represented by the bargaining unit voted for “No Union,” according to NUHW.

But SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, in a separate statement Thursday, said it is protesting the decision by the Public Employment Relations Board to allow a decertification election at the San Pablo facility. SEIU said the state board “issued its ruling in the face of clear violations of labor law” by the hospital’s management and the rival NUHW union, in effect claiming management and Rosselli’s new union are working in cahoots to decertify SEIU.

“Management gave NUHW a free hand to organize in our hospital and to confuse our members about who their union really was,” Martha Torrentes, an SEIU supporter at Doctors, said in its statement.

In a battle of press release quotes, however, a pro-NUHW worker at the hospital made the exact opposite argument. “We’re so excited to be in control of our own union again,” said Duka Ristic, an ultrasonographer at the hospital for eight years. “NUHW is led by the local healthcare workers and leaders we know and trust, who helped us raise standards for our patients and keep our community’s hospital open.”

SEIU ousted Rosselli and other former UHW leaders early this year, claiming various improprieties, but the new NUHW claims that nearly 100,000 workers statewide have petitioned to leave what Rosselli’s group calls “the scandal-plagued SEIU” and join the new union.

The breakaway union says SEIU has filed hundreds of frivolous charges with state and federal labor boards to delay elections at more than 360 facilities, noting that so-called “blocking charges” are a tactic commonly used “by employers and union-busting consultants” to stall union-representation elections.

Gisela Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the hospital, told the San Francisco Business Times it had no preference in the inter-union smackdown.

“We’re completely neutral on this,” Hernandez said. “We’re letting members go through the process” of choosing their union representation.

Source: San Francisco Business Times