Sonoma County caregivers blast takeaways in secret union contract

NewsOctober 21, 2009

SEIU draws fire from members and County Supervisors over behavior in contract vote 

Santa Rosa, Calif.—Homecare providers suspected the worst last month, when SEIU officials changed the rules of a vote on their union contract and refused to let them see a copy of the agreement they were voting on. Now their contract with Sonoma County has become public record, and providers are outraged to see how much SEIU officials gave up.

“We’re looking at people losing their homes, not being able to put food on the table, not being able to afford medical care,” said Arin Stevens, a homecare provider in Sonoma County for 22 years. “That’s what happens to people when you cut in-home support wages.”

County Supervisors approved the contract in their Sept. 30 meeting, but expressed shock and disappointment that SEIU had not allowed caregivers a fair vote on whether to accept the deal.

“When they took people’s voice away by not allowing them to vote by mail… I think they undermined the values of labor,” Supervisor Shirlee Zane said at the meeting. “…Not giving members the full contract, full disclosure, is not transparent, nor is it in good faith in terms of union bargaining.”

Details of SEIU’s secret contract revealed

SEIU officials used security guards, voter suppression, and a misleading summary to rig the contract vote. These details of the contract were hidden from workers:

  • Instead of raises, the contract provides for a $2/hour wage cut that is virtually guaranteed when federal stimulus money runs out next summer.
  • The contract allows sharp increases in workers’ out-of-pocket payments for doctors visits, prescriptions, and other medical services. Under the previous contract, many of those costs were fixed.
  • The County is no longer required to provide workers with protective supplies like gloves, masks, and disinfectant wipes.
  • The County is no longer required to provide on-call relief services to care for seniors and people with disabilities when providers are called away by emergencies.
  • There are no improvements at all in the contract, only takeaways. This is the first contract in California history that moves homecare workers backward, widening the gulf between long-term care and hospital workers.


Voter fraud in contract ratification

  • SEIU refused to show workers the language of the contract. The details were only revealed after the vote was over. (Read the contract)
  • SEIU changed election rules to suppress the vote. In previous elections, homecare workers voted at home, by mail. SEIU insisted workers vote in-person, and voting hours at each polling place were restricted to two hours during evening rush hour, when IHSS providers are needed to care for consumers. Barely 350 out of 4,000 eligible providers were able to vote.
  • SEIU hired security guards to keep suspected “No” voters from entering polling places. (Hear the story from caregivers and reaction from Supervisors in this video)
  • The only information homecare workers were given about the contract was in one-page leaflets and short robo-calls which falsely claimed the contract protected wages and contained “no takeaways.” (See the agreement summary and ratification leaflet. Listen to the robo-call.)

“It’s just beyond comprehension to me,” said Stevens. “This used to be an open process, where members were treated with dignity and respect, we were kept informed and never denied information. Now we’re forced to vote in person and harassed by security guards. I’m outraged and I am determined to see that this never happens again.”

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, Kaiser Permanente facilities, homecare, and nursing homes have petitioned to join NUHW since January 2009. |