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!
Please write us back explaining why you would do such a thing to us, and how you will respond to our request.