Workers at Michigan Hospital and Nursing Home Organize to Join NUHW

NewsMarch 28, 2011

Caregivers cite lack of representation and lack of member involvement as reasons for organizing to leave SEIU

Healthcare workers at Mercy Health Partners, Hackley Campus in Muskegon and Luther Manor skilled nursing facility in Saginaw have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for elections to leave the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

“We’re tired of the lack of representation we’ve received from our current union, SEIU,” said Hasan Zahdeh, a Cardiovascular Interventional Technologist at MHP, Hackley Campus. “Our phone calls aren’t returned, our grievances go unaddressed, and our contract is not being enforced. We don’t feel that we’re being represented by this union. We’re getting out of SEIU and joining NUHW, a union led by workers, where we will have the support we need to stand up for ourselves and our patients.”

Workers at MHP Hackley Campus report going months without seeing their union representative. When MHP management made significant changes to working conditions at the hospital without bargaining with the union, SEIU ignored repeated entreaties by members to enforce the contract. SEIU left the workers’ prior contract open for three months after its expiration date before initiating new negotiations with management.

At Luther Manor nursing home, workers report having seen their current representative only twice since he was assigned to the facility seven months ago.  As at MHP Hackley campus, SEIU did not begin bargaining a new contract with Luther Manor management until three months after the prior contract had expired.  The workers’ last contract included a two-tier structure of wage increases, in which new employees received just 20 cent per hour raises each year for their first four years of employment.

“We want a union that’s controlled by workers, and that looks out for members’ interests,” said Peggy Norman, a Medical Records Clerk at Luther Manor for 22 years. “We’re taking back our union. NUHW is where we belong.”

SEIU’s recent history in Michigan has been tarnished by corruption.  The former president of SEIU Michigan Healthcare, Rickman Jackson, was forced from his office in 2008 for his role in a spending scandal involving a union-sponsored non-profit under investigation for questionable dealings that paid him tens of thousand of dollars in rent, claiming his home was its headquarters.

NUHW was formed in 2009 by former rank-and-file and staff leaders of SEIU United Healthcare Workers – West (UHW) in California after SEIU’s Washington DC staff put UHW in trusteeship to silence dissent against SEIU’s practice of making back room deals with employers at the expense of members. In just over two years, NUHW has organized 8,000 healthcare workers and become a mobilizing force for democratic reform within the labor movement.

At MHP Hackley Campus, the election filing covers approximately 100 technical employees, including Radiology Technologists, Respiratory Therapists, Surgical Technologists, Ultrasound Technologists and Vascular Technologists. Workers covered by the election at Luther Manor Nursing Home include about 75 Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nursing Aides, Dietary workers, Housekeepers and other classifications.