Workers seek a voice with NUHW after SEIU and Unite Here abandoned them in secret deal with employer

NewsFebruary 23, 2009

LOS ANGELES—Workers employed through a subcontractor at Providence Tarzana Medical Center, who were denied their right to form a union by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Unite Here in a secret deal with the Compass Group, filed petitions today for an election to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

In May, the Wall Street Journal exposed the secret deal between several large corporations and the heads of the Service Employees International Union and Unite Here. Union officials agreed to forbid most low-wage workers who work for Compass, Sodexho, and Aramark from joining either of their unions, in exchange for access to a smaller number of workers at facilities chosen by the employers. The unions agreed not to admit the existence of the agreement to workers or the public.

Environmental Services workers at Providence Tarzana, as employees of Compass subsidiary Crothall, were among those disenfranchised by the secret agreement. Most other workers at the hospital already have a union.

“Everyone in this hospital should be able to join together and choose what union we’ll be part of,” said Julia Sidrow-Thompson, an SEIU member and monitor tech who works at Providence Tarzana. “I don’t want to be part of an organization that would take that decision away from healthcare workers and let the boss make those decisions for us.”

Since NUHW was founded by union reformers less than a month ago, tens of thousands of workers have petitioned to leave SEIU and join NUHW for a stronger voice in on the job and a more democratic voice in their union. The workers petitioning today at Providence Tarzana are the first non-union workers to organize with the independent union.

Workers at Lakewood Regional Medical Center, one of the facilities Sodexho designated for SEIU and Unite Here to enroll members, also filed petitions today to leave their union and join NUHW, saying the secret deal had locked them into substandard union contracts with low wages and poor benefits.

“Healthcare workers in other unions have worked together to make sure the jobs in our communities are good jobs where we can support our families,” said Terrence Carter, an EEG technician at Lakewood Regional. “Our co-workers who work for subcontractors should not be left in poverty because of a backroom deal they had no voice in. We should all be able to join together in the same union. In NUHW, there are no limits to what healthcare workers can achieve.”

Including today’s filings, workers at nearly 120 facilities across California have petitioned to unite in NUHW.