Through Fear and Collusion, SEIU-UHW Holds on to Kaiser Bargaining Unit
But majority of the total number of Kaiser workers in California support NUHW-CNA
OAKLAND — For months, the Service Employees International Union–United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW) has spent millions of dollars on a negative campaign designed to exploit Kaiser Permanente workers’ anxieties in a difficult economic climate, asserting repeatedly and without foundation that workers who choose to stand up for themselves do so only at the cost of losing everything, the National Union of Healthcare Workers-California Nurses Association (NUHW-CNA) stated at the conclusion of the rerun election vote count today.
Through this campaign of fear, intimidation, and collusion with management, SEIU-UHW prevailed today in the statewide election for 45,000 Kaiser employees in California. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recorded the vote count with a tally of 13,002 votes for NUHW-CNA to 18,894 votes for SEIU-UHW, with 334 voters casting ballots for “Neither.”
During a time of record profits for Kaiser Permanente, through its labor-management partnership, SEIU-UHW has allowed Kaiser to implement deep cuts to workers’ pension and retiree health benefits and to lay off 1,000 workers statewide. SEIU-UHW’s election message to Kaiser’s workforce has been that even worse lies in store for those who choose to fight for what they deserve.
NUHW-CNA’s conviction is the opposite: that workers can only secure their future by standing united against the cuts that SEIU-UHW officials have readily agreed to. NUHW-CNA’s message has galvanized Kaiser workers, generating roughly 13,000 votes for change even in a tough economy. Together with 18,000 Kaiser RNs represented by the California Nurses Association and 5,000 NUHW-represented Kaiser employees, those 13,000 workers belong to a majority of Kaiser workers in California who stand united and ready to fight the downward spiral of cuts that SEIU-UHW and employers like Kaiser are forcing on healthcare workers everywhere.
SEIU-UHW and Kaiser’s “partnership” radically and unlawfully tilted the election playing field in favor of the incumbent union. Just as they did in the 2010 election, Kaiser management granted unequal facility access to SEIU-UHW staff and illegally abridged the speech rights of workers supporting NUHW-CNA. Kaiser also changed its formula for awarding bonuses to workers in order to penalize employees who already belong to NUHW-CNA, providing SEIU-UHW with a tailor-made campaign issue. Recently, the NLRB charged Kaiser with “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights” guaranteed workers under the law at three different hospitals. Those violations were just a small fraction of the number of violations statewide that NUHW-CNA has documented and amassed.
Regardless of the election outcome, Kaiser employees remain committed to the fight for patients and workers at a time of record profits for the HMO.
“The majority of Kaiser workers are either members of NUHW and CNA or cast ballots to become members,” said Lisa Tomasian a radiology technologist at Kaiser Santa Clara. “We have never in the history of Kaiser been so united. We’re going to take this unity and use it to put a stop to Kaiser and SEIU-UHW’s joint plan to reduce workers’ benefits to increase corporate profits. We’re just at the beginning of showing Kaiser what that unity looks like.”
“When a patient is in critical condition, nurses don’t just throw our hands up and give up on her,” said Zenei Cortez, RN and CNA co-president and chair of the CNA Kaiser Joint Area Bargaining Council. “It’s when things are tough that we fight the hardest. This fight is a fight for workers and for safe patient care. If you know nurses and if you know healthcare workers, you know that we don’t give up: we focus, we knuckle down and we get the job done. Kaiser is about to learn that about us. We’ve opened doors that will never be closed.”