Union election will go forward for 10,000 Fresno homecare workers

NewsApril 24, 2009

County says caregivers can vote to dump scandal-plagued SEIU and join the National Union of Healthcare Workers

Fresno, Calif.—More than 10,000 in-home healthcare workers in Fresno County will get to vote in an election to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and quit the scandal-plagued SEIU. On Thursday, the County Department of Personnel Services validated a petition filed last month by thousands of caregivers calling for an election.

“We’re voting for NUHW so we can stay united with the tens of thousands of other healthcare workers in California,” said Flo Furlow, a homecare worker in Fresno.

“SEIU told us we couldn’t stay in the same union with hospital and clinic workers, and tried to force us into a union with lower wages where we wouldn’t have a voice. SEIU failed to protect homecare funding in Sacramento, and for the first time in County history our wages and benefits might be rolled back. Now we’ll have the chance to decide for ourselves, and join a union where homecare workers have a voice.”

In January, SEIU demanded that California’s healthcare union force out 65,000 homecare and nursing home workers, and make them join a separate union that would be run by SEIU staff from Washington, D.C. Homecare workers’ elected local leaders said they would only comply if workers were allowed to vote on the transfer. Instead of allowing a vote, SEIU seized control of the local union in a hostile takeover.

Since then, healthcare workers have been organizing to stay united in NUHW. Nearly 100,000 workers at more than 360 facilities have petitioned to hold elections, including nearly every facility in Fresno County where workers are represented by SEIU. This election will be the first for in-home caregivers.

Disability advocates support the caregivers’ decision to change unions.

“These caregivers have been working together for years and raising quality standards for the seniors and people with disabilities who depend on their care,” said John Wilkins, an advocate for homecare services in Fresno. “But their old union was spending too much time and money fighting against them.”

Before homecare workers’ election is scheduled, notice will be posted for 30 days to allow other labor organizations to petition to be added to the ballot, according to an announcement sent last night by the Department of Personnel Services.

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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. NUHW is building a national movement of caregivers to hold healthcare corporations accountable to the public interest and win affordable, quality healthcare for all.