Friday, May 15, 2015

SEIU-UHW Hospital Worker: "We Are Not Your Property!"


AFL-CIO's Rich Trumka and SEIU's Mary Kay Henry
Here's the latest chapter in a rapidly developing story that began when hundreds of California hospital workers recently requested an NLRB election so they can leave SEIU-UHW and join NUHW.

This week, a worker at Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif. (who also happens to be a former member of SEIU-UHW’s Executive Board) sent a zinger of a letter to SEIU President Mary Kay Henry about SEIU’s underhanded efforts to block 700 workers from holding an NLRB election (see the letter below).

As reported in a previous post, SEIU took a similar action against cafeteria workers at the U.S. Senate in Washington DC who are trying to join UNITE HERE.

What prompted the hospital worker to write to SEIU’s prez?

Well, soon after she and her co-workers requested an NLRB election, SEIU ran straight to AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka’s office in DC, where Trumka promptly agreed to do SEIU’s bidding by getting the NLRB to block the election.

Interesting, right? After all, SEIU isn’t even a member of the AFL-CIO.

A couple of weeks ago, labor journalist Steve Early reported on these developments and took Trumka to task for turning his back on "employee free choice." Here’s a link to Early’s article: “AFL-CIO Delays CA Hospital Vote: What Happened to Employee Free Choice?

Which brings us to this week, when one of Enloe’s workers sent a blistering letter to SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry. The letter is excerpted immediately below. A full copy is at the bottom.

Dear SEIU President Mary Kay Henry,
I'm writing to you as a union member and a former member of SEIU-UHW Executive Board…
Since the trusteeship, our experience with SEIU at Enloe has been, to say the least, one big disappointment, and it seems to get worse with each passing day. We only see union representatives when they want us to do something for them, like pay COPE, go to a lobby day, or house visit home care workers. When it comes to our concerns and grievances, the union reps are nowhere to be seen. Sometimes we learn of secret deals they’ve made with management behind our backs. And the union reps often just lie straight to our faces.
My co-workers have zero confidence in SEIU and some have even come to hate all unions because of their experience with SEIU.
When we complain to our reps, they blame us or they blame the union higher-ups. When we complain to the higher-ups, they blame the reps. Either way, nothing gets done. Management continues to violate our contract while the union does nothing.
When the contract was renegotiated in 2012, SEIU made concessions in our seniority rights when bidding on vacancies, allowed the employer to unilaterally change hours for the sole purpose of avoiding paying shift differential, bargained away restrictions on management rights, and did not really fight for a fair wage increase. We were given almost no notice of the ratification vote and were not even shown what we were voting on.
As our current contract reached its expiration date, we filed a petition with the NLRB seeking to join a different union, NUHW.
You can imagine our frustration when we learned that the AFL-CIO and SEIU have made some sort of deal that would prevent us from choosing a different union – we thought we had that right under the National Labor Relations Act!
We don't know about all of the agreements that are made among the unions and the AFL-CIO, we just know our current union is no good, and we want a chance to join a better one. What is wrong with that? Why would you deny us our legal rights? Why would you hold us hostage in a union we have come to distrust? Why do you treat us like we are your property?
To add insult to injury, as soon as we filed to join a different union, after hardly ever seeing any SEIU reps for years, suddenly there are seven full-time "organizers" in our hospital! Are they here to help us with our grievances and to help us get ready for a contract fight? Hardly. All they do is harass us with phone calls and house visits, interrupt our work and our breaks, and threaten us…
Our employer does whatever they want with no resistance from our so-called union. As far as we can tell the only difference between being in SEIU and not having a union is that we pay 2% of our modest wages for the privilege of being ignored, disrespected, and lied to.
And now you've engineered a deal with the AFL-CIO to block a fair election! What are you afraid of? A healthy debate? A choice for workers? Why do you have to resort to legal maneuvering instead of standing on the quality of your work?
The hypocrisy of SEIU is astounding. You use our dues dollars to campaign for the rights of fast food workers to organize without fear of intimidation from their employers, and for all workers to have the right to fair union elections. Yet, when we want the same thing for ourselves, you and Dave Regan unleash a small army to call us, stalk us at our homes, and interrupt our work and our breaks with their threats, lies, intimidation and coercion. Is this the labor movement you are building? We want no part of it.
All we are asking from you now is that you and Dave Regan get your thugs out of our workplace, off our phones and away from our homes. Stop behaving like a union-busting boss and let us get on with our future!
WE ARE NOT YOUR PROPERTY!
Please write us back explaining why you would do such a thing to us, and how you will respond to our request.



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan Fires Another Salvo in His Battle with Mary Kay Henry


SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan has fired another salvo in his war with SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and SEIU's International Executive Board (IEB).

In January, SEIU's IEB ordered SEIU-UHW and SEIU Local 521 to finally carry out a six-year-old order to transfer their long-term care workers to SEIU Local 6434.

This week, California home care workers tell Tasty they’re receiving an SEIU-UHW "survey" in the mail that’s designed to build opposition to Mary Kay Henry and the IEB’s order. Here's a copy of the mailer, which says in part:

Below is a short survey about what you think nursing home, home care workers and our patients and clients need. This is our chance to shape the future of home care and healthcare in California...
How do you think your needs and your patient's/client’s needs will be better met? Choose one:
  • Being united in a single, statewide healthcare union with ALL California hospital, nursing home and home care workers?
                    OR 
  • Being separated from hospital workers and put into a different union of only home care and nursing home workers?


Regan also posted an electronic version of the survey on SEIU-UHW's website at http://www.seiu-uhw.org/betterfuture, where any member of the public can fill it out.



Regan’s "push poll" will undoubtedly cause SEIU officials to hit the roof. In March, the Purple Palace erupted in anger when Diamond Dave had SEIU-UHW’s Executive Board pass a resolution opposing the IEB’s order.

In addition to the survey, Tasty hears that Regan has assigned large numbers of SEIU-UHW staffers to organize home care and nursing home workers to oppose Mary Kay Henry and SEIU.

Will Regan try to use the results of the "survey" in his public battle with Mary Kay Henry? You betcha. But even if the survey had been conducted in a reliable fashion (which it wasn't), experience tells us you can't trust the results. Why? Because Diamond Dave loves to stuff the ballot box.

For example, Regan was famously apprehended while stuffing the ballot box in two unionization elections in Southern California at Chapman Medical Center and HCA’s Thousands Oaks Surgical Hospital. The NLRB documented the ballot-box-stuffing, overturned the elections, and cited SEIU-UHW for violating federal labor law.

Stay tuned.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Washington Post: SEIU Blocks UNITE HERE from Unionizing Low-Wage Workers, Then Abandons Workers


SEIU's HQ in DC: Just blocks from Senate cafeteria workers
A pair of articles in the Washington Post shines a spotlight on SEIU's campaign to block UNITE HERE from unionizing low-wage workers in Washington, DC.  

It's quite a story. 

And it's an interesting sequel to Steve Early’s recent article about similar issues in California involving SEIU-UHW, the AFL-CIO, and NUHW.

Last month, a WaPo columnist penned an article entitled, "The Homeless Man Who Works in the Senate." The column tells the story of 63-year-old Charles Gladden, a food service worker who’s worked at the U.S. Senate's cafeteria for the past eight years -- but has been homeless for the past five years due to low wages.

Gladden takes home only $360 for 40 hours of sweeping floors, mopping bathrooms, cleaning dishes, composting leftovers, and transporting laundry. At night he sleeps at the McPherson Square Metro Station just 2,000 feet from the White House.

Last week, another WaPo reporter published a follow-up story that poses an interesting question: Why are Mr. Gladden’s wages so low? Shouldn't he have a union?
 
Charles Gladden
It turns out that the food service workers in the cafeteria at the U.S. House of Representatives do, in fact, have a union. 

They've been members of Unite Here Local 23 for about 20 years and earn wages that have allowed some workers to buy homes, send their kids to college, etc.

So why are the conditions so horrible at the Senate cafeteria?

Here's where the story gets interesting.

It turns out that two years ago, the Senate cafeteria workers began organizing to join Unite Here. Last year, the workers were preparing to go public with their unionization effort when SEIU unfortunately got wind of their efforts. Rather than supporting the workers' campaign, says the journalist…
the Service Employees International Union sued Local 23, accusing it of violating a legal agreement the two unions had struck divvying up the city’s workplaces. Technically, public service employees were supposed to be SEIU’s turf.
“We were told we had to get out by SEIU because it was their jurisdiction,” says Local 23 President Jim Dupont. So Local 23 backed off. “It’s horrible for those workers. We have to go tell them no. They were so mad at us, and they have the right to be. It’s kind of a silly thing. There are plenty of people to organize.”

For the record, Unite Here has represented food service workers at the Smithsonian museums, the Nationals Park, other government agencies, and Washington DC's universities for many years.

So... after SEIU sued Unite Here and put an end to the workers' organizing campaign, did SEIU step up and try to improve workers' pay and benefits?

Nope.

Here's what has happened during the past year, according to the journalist:
Jaime Contreras: "We just haven't gotten there yet"
SEIU has not been actively working to help the Senate cafeteria workers actually unionize.

"It’s on our radar. We just haven’t gotten there yet,” says Jaime Contreras, director of the Capital Area District for the SEIU affiliate 32BJ.

For now, that means that Senate cafeteria workers will probably stay at lower wage benefit levels than their House counterparts.



This explains why the WaPo reporter gave the following piercing title to her article: “Why House cafeteria workers are paid better than Senate cafeteria workers. Hint: It has to do with a union.”


That “union,” of course, is SEIU.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dave Regan's "Audacious Plan" Points to Purple Prison Cell


It turns out that Dave Regan's "audacious new proposal to save the labor movement" will now secure him a spot in a California jail.

Here's what's happening.

Last year, Regan deliberately withheld several consumer-friendly ballot initiatives from California voters as part of his secret, sell-out deal with the California Hospital Association.

Soon thereafter, Regan -- who’s totally allergic to the idea of actually organizing workers -- declared that his two-part strategy of (1) dishonest ballot initiatives and (2) sell-out deals with corporations is actually a masterful new plan to “save” the U.S. labor movement.

In May of 2014, Regan jetted to Washington, DC and proposed that the Purple Palace replicate his strategy across the entire US.

The following month, Regan laid out his genius strategy in a piece called "Live Better Together” and convinced journalist Josh Israel to pen a puff piece entitled, "The Audacious New Proposal to Save the Labor Movement." According to Israel, Regan is planning to take his "audacious" ballot initiative strategy to a national level… and will remake the labor movement!

Except it won't.

In fact, it’ll now land Regan a ticket to the Big House in California.

What happened?

It turns out that Regan's bait-and-switch ballot initiative maneuver generated an angry public backlash in California. It's not hard to understand why. After all, people don't usually like to get lied to… and that's exactly what Regan did.

In early 2014, Regan and SEIU-UHW staffers traversed California and asked legislators, community organizations, and hundreds of thousands of voters to sign on to consumer-friendly ballot initiatives that would have capped executives’ fatcat salaries and reduced patients’ hospital bills. Under state law, the public can qualify proposed new laws for the statewide ballot by collecting a sufficient number of signatures from voters.


However… just before the deadline for filing voters' signatures with state election officials, Regan decided to toss the signatures in the trash in exchange for his own secret deal with hospital bosses. It turns out that voters' signatures were simply a bargaining chip that Regan used during his private negotiations with hospital bosses. 

"Sorry about that, José Q. Public and Leslie P. Legislator. We decided to use your signatures like so many poker chips at the casino table. We ditched you like a basket of hot potatoes. But yo, stay tuned, we’re gonna ask you to sign other fake ballot initiatives so we can use you again. How many times can we play you? Let's see. We're SEIU!”

Strangely enough, it turns out that the public ain’t so keen on being used by Diamond Dave and his purple gang.

Multiple California newspapers -- including the Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register, and San Diego Union Tribune -- published editorials against SEIU-UHW with titles like “SEIU Is Abusing Ballot System."

In August, California state legislators overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 1253, which was signed by the governor in September. The new legislation, authored by the most powerful Democrat in the California Senate, criminalizes Regan's bait-and-switch ballot initiative maneuver. According to the State of California:
This bill makes it a crime for a proponent of a statewide initiative measure to seek, solicit, bargain for, or obtain any money or thing of value of or from any person, firm, or corporation for the purpose of withdrawing an initiative petition after filing it with the appropriate elections official.

That means that Diamond Dave can no longer trade away ballot initiatives for his own gain.

What will happen to Regan if he violates the new law?

A $5,000 fine or imprisonment for up to three years… or both.

Way to go, Dave! 

There's nothing quite like burning turf with California voters, legislators, community organizations, newspapers… and then having the state legislature turn your genius strategy into a criminal act. You're the man! A f*cking Einstein!

Btw, stay tuned to see what happens to Meg Niemi, an acolyte of Diamond Dave's, who’s attempting to use the same dishonest bait-and-switch ballot initiative strategy in Oregon.


Will SEIU's latest experience prompt it to finally build democratic, worker-run unions? 

Little chance of that. Keep your eye out for SEIU's next half-baked shortcut scheme to "rebuild the labor movement."

Sunday, May 3, 2015

SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan: “Mary Kay Henry is a disappointment”


Regan and Henry during a friendlier moment
Here's the complete version of the resolution that Dave Regan had SEIU-UHW's Executive Board pass at its March meeting. The resolution is one of the volleys in Regan’s self-described war against SEIU's President Mary Kay Henry and the SEIU International Executive Board (IEB).

In January, the SEIU IEB ordered SEIU-UHW and SEIU Local 521 to finally carry out a six-year-old order to consolidate SEIU's California long-term care workers into a single local union, SEIU Local 6434. At the January meeting, the presidents of the three affected local unions pledged to refrain from talking publicly about the IEB's order.

That's why SEIU officials erupted in anger when Regan had SEIU-UHW's Executive Board pass the following resolution just weeks later.


Here are a few excerpts from the resolution, with full text below. (Fyi, SEIU Local 6434 is also known as “ULTCW” or "United Long Term Care Workers Union.")

In January 2015, SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry announced that she had decided to re-visit the question of local union structure for healthcare workers in California. SEIU-UHW invited President Henry to come and talk to our elected leadership about this decision and she declined to do so.

Therefore be it resolved that in the spirit of our union’s slogan, “Stronger Together,” the SEIU-UHW Executive Board calls for the creation of one statewide healthcare union in California that unites home care, nursing home and hospital workers…

Be it further resolved that SEIU-UHW strongly opposes efforts to divide healthcare workers in California because it would weaken all healthcare workers and make the previously referenced goals unachievable.

Be it further resolved that SEIU-UHW expresses its disappointment that the International President of SEIU declined our invitation to come and talk to our elected leadership about this decision that will have a profound impact on healthcare workers and patients in California.

Be it further resolved that this resolution, expressing the strongly held convictions of the leadership of SEIU-UHW’s home care, hospital, Kaiser and nursing home members, be distributed to the leadership of the International Union and to others within SEIU who care about the future of healthcare workers.  


Friday, May 1, 2015

UFCW Local 400's lawsuit against Kaiser... and two news articles


Three quick items:

1. Here's a copy of the lawsuit filed by UFCW Local 400 against Kaiser Permanente in federal court for refusing to follow their collective bargaining agreement, negotiated under the labor-management partnership. Tasty mentioned the lawsuit in this post.


2. Check out an article by labor journalist Steve Early entitled “AFL-CIO Delays CA Hospital Vote: What Happened to Employee Free Choice?” The article describes how SEIU recently enlisted the AFL-CIO’s Rich Trumka to delay an NLRB election requested by 700 California hospital workers who, on March 30th, requested an election to dump SEIU-UHW and join NUHW.

Early takes Trumka/SEIU to task for turning their backs on "employee free choice,” the labor movement's top legislative priority for years.

So why are workers at the hospital in Chico, Calif. bolting Dave Regan’s SEIU-UHW? Here's what one worker tells Early:
“In our last contract, SEIU bargained away important language and put up absolutely no fight for livable wage increases. Then they rushed a contract ratification vote, giving us little notice and no copies of the contract they had bargained…Only 100 out of 700 employees voted. This is not how a union should behave.”

Yo Diamond Dave: Is that what SEIU calls "free choice" and worker democracy?

FYI, journalist Cal Winslow has also published an article on the campaign by hospital workers in Chico: "California Healthcare Workers Fight for a Union that Will Fight for Them."


3. Lastly, see another article in “New York Capital” describing SEIU 1199 New York’s tight relationship with the hospital industry -- the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) -- and 1199NY’s split from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the state's largest nurses' union with 37,000 members. 

The two unions' opposing philosophies reflect a similar split among California’s healthcare unions, where SEIU-UHW has climbed deep inside the pocket of the state's hospital bosses and joined the bosses in attacking California's patient safety laws.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kaiser's Partnership Pals Hold Birthday Celebration as Rebellion Breaks Out in Partnership Ranks


Wellness walks? Dance-a-thons? Contract buddies? Purple pedometers?

Meg Niemi and Dennis Dabney
In case you thought you'd seen it all, here's the latest from the Disneyland world of partnership bargaining, which resumed this week at the San Jose Marriott Hotel (April 28-30).

It comes from the twitter account of Meg Niemi, the President of SEIU Local 49Niemi was last seen hugging Kaiser Permanente's top HR executive, Dennis Dabney, during recent bargaining meetings.

On Friday, Meg sent out the following tweet after SEIU members delivered "happy birthday” cards to Scott Allen, Kaiser’s Director of Labor Relations in Washington and Oregon, to celebrate the partnership's birthday. Looks like the officials atop the partnership unions are gearing up for a real knockdown drag-out fight with the Boss, right?

Here's the pic, with the smiling HR official standing in the middle. (Btw, not too many signatures on those b-day cards, right?)



Interestingly, it looks like another partnership union didn't get the memo about the all-smiles-and-hugs approach to Kaiser and its HR department.

UFCW Local 400 -- which is part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and a “partnership” union – has sued Kaiser in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland for violating its members’ contract, according to a Courthouse News article published April 10, 2015.

Local 400 -- whose members include RNs, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Mental Health Professionals, Substance Abuse Counselors, Audiologists and other professionals at 33 Kaiser outpatient facilities in DC, Maryland and Virginia -- says Kaiser is violating basic provisions of its labor contract and giving substandard care to patients so it can boost its profits.


The union has filed more than 60 grievances in an effort to get Kaiser to fix the problems. But Kaiser won't even follow the contract's grievance procedure!  That's why Local 400 is suing Kaiser in federal court.

Yesterday, UFCW Local 400 posted the following statement on its website: “Kaiser Worker Treatment Cause of Concern.” 

The statement details problems with off-the-clock work, inadequate staffing levels that underminethe quality of care, Kaiser’s profiteering at the expense of patients, and the HMO’s refusal to give benefited positions to workers. Here are some excerpts:
Once a model of labor-management cooperation, Kaiser Permanente has made troubling changes in the way it treats its health professionals, bringing in managers lacking experience in a union environment, disregarding the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, and focusing more on profits than the well-being of its employees and patients. 
As a result, an unprecedented number of grievances have been filed in the Mid-Atlantic region over the past year.
“Kaiser was once a model employer and we hope it will be again, but right now it’ s anything but,” said Local 400 Secretary-Treasurer Lavoris ”Mikki” Harris... 
“Kaiser’s recent behavior leads me to wonder whether the for-profit cart is dragging the non-profit horse,” Harris said. “As a result, Kaiser’s vaunted Labor-Management Partnership is not what it once was, with Kaiser’s health professionals being treated not as its most valuable resource, but rather as a cost to be minimized. Together, we will reverse this unfortunate turn of events.”

Way to go, Local 400! 

It sounds like the local’s members -- many of whom do the same work as NUHW’s members in California – have borrowed a page from the red union's playbook. 

More to come? Stay tuned.