Wednesday, August 15, 2018

More Bumps in the Road for Dave Regan’s Ballot-Initiative Bonanza

SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan is facing more problems in his quest to pass at least ten ballot initiatives during 2018.

After first abandoning his effort to place an initiative on Arizona’s November ballot targeting the kidney dialysis industry, Regan then dropped his plans for ballot measures in three California cities “after not gathering enough signatures,” according to the East Bay Times.

The three measures would have targeted Stanford Health Care in the cities of Pleasanton, Emeryville and Redwood City. Regan tried to use the threat of his ballot initiatives to pressure Stanford into signing a special unionization deal. (Angela Ruggeiro, “Livermore sued over city measure for healthcare costs; asks court to rule on legality,” East Bay Times, August 10, 2018)

Earlier this year, the City of Emeryville sued SEIU-UHW alleging that Regan’s ballot initiative is unconstitutional, violates due process rules, and is preempted by state and federal laws.

In a fourth city in the San Francisco Bay Area – Livermore -- Regan successfully gathered enough signatures to qualify his anti-Stanford initiative for the citywide ballot. However, Diamond Dave and his attorneys are now locked in dueling lawsuits with the city.

On August 2, Regan sued the City of Livermore alleging that the ballot language approved by the City Council is biased. The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court, according to press accounts and SEIU-UHW’s website.

Meanwhile, the City of Livermore has filed a court petition challenging the constitutionality of Regan’s ballot initiative. The city says healthcare prices are governed by statewide rules and that it would be improper for the city to create its own separate standards. The city attorney “likened the scenario to if Livermore adopted a different vehicle code, just for the city, which would go against state vehicle codes.”
Livermore City Attorney Jason Alcala

As the lawsuits move forward, pin-striped lawyers and pollsters and consultants are chanting “Ka-Ching!” as the price tag on Regan’s 2018 ballot-initiative bonanza soars ever higher.

Why is the City of Livermore against Regan’s ballot initiative?

If approved by voters, the measure would force the city to spend nearly $2 million a year to implement and administer Regan’s initiative, according to experts hired by city officials. Additionally, city officials fear that Regan’s initiative would drive hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers out of the city.

Late last year, Regan apparently launched his ballot-initiative bonanza with great hopes… despite the failure of his past efforts. In 2018, Regan introduced more ballot initiatives than during the past six years combined.

So far, however, Regan has come up empty-handed... and it’s unlikely he’ll eke out any deals at this stage of the game. Once the initiatives have been put on the ballot, there’s little incentive for the targeted companies to negotiate with Regan because he no longer has the power to remove the initiatives from the ballot.

Regan -- who believes ballot initiatives are some kind of miraculous solution for the profound problems gripping the US labor movement -- has dumped more than $10 million of his members’ funds into initiatives during 2018.

What could workers have done with this money?

And what’ll happen to Diamond Dave if he ends the year without a single unionization deal?

Stay tuned.  

Friday, August 10, 2018

SEIU Shutters Department, Gets Tongue-Lashing from Longtime Director

SEIU’s national leaders are coming under sharp criticism by the former director of SEIU International’s Occupational Health and Safety Program.


“As of July 1,” according to an article published in an online newsletter about workplace safety and labor issues, “the two-million member union will no longer have a health and safety program as it lays off its last health and safety staffer, Mark Catlin, who has been SEIU’s lone health and safety staffer for many months.”

Here’s what Bill Borwegen, the former director of SEIU’s Occupational Health and Safety Program, said:
‘Healthcare for All’ is a meaningless jingoistic slogan if unions aren’t willing to fund even the most meager of efforts to reduce workplace hazards that lead to preventable injuries, illnesses and deaths.  And with the release of the most recent troubling latest BLS statistics demonstrating how – if anything-- unions need to be redoubling their efforts at this time. Wow. Tragically this is a symptom of what happens when union leadership becomes thoroughly and utterly disengaged from the day to day workplace realities of those they get the privilege to serve.

Sharp language, right? “A union leadership that’s thoroughly and utterly disengaged from the day to day workplace realities of those they get the privilege to serve.”

Why is Borwegen -- who worked at SEIU for 30 years and was a well-known staffer there -- so critical?

It turns out that SEIU’s members work in industries, like health care, with skyhigh injury rates. In fact, injury rates among healthcare workers are higher than in the manufacturing industry. According to OSHA,
More workers are injured in the healthcare and social assistance industry sector than any other. This industry has one of the highest rates of work related injuries and illnesses. In 2010, the healthcare and social assistance industry reported more injury and illness cases than any other private industry sector -- 653,900 cases. That is 152,000 more cases than the next industry sector: manufacturing… Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants had the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations in 2010.

Musculoskeletal disorders refer, for example, to the back and shoulder injuries that nursing home workers suffer from having to lift and turn bed-bound patients.

OSHA goes on to describe other workplace dangers confronting healthcare workers:
Healthcare workers face a number of serious safety and health hazards. They include bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards, potential chemical and drug exposures, waste anesthetic gas exposures, respiratory hazards, ergonomic hazards from lifting and repetitive tasks, laser hazards, workplace violence, hazards associated with laboratories, and radioactive material and x-ray hazards.

SEIU’s elimination of its Health and Safety Program is even more troubling given the rivers of money that Andy Stern and Mary Kay Henry diverted away from local unions and poured into SEIU’s DC-headquarters over many years.

As part of their effort to centralize control and power in SEIU’s DC headquarters, Stern and Henry pushed through changes that required local SEIU affiliates to send more and more of their dues money to the national headquarters. In one episode, they even passed a measure to divert millions of dollars from SEIU’s national industry strike fund into SEIU International’s annual budget.

With all that money, why are SEIU officials shutting down a program that should be a core job of unions?

Like Borwegen said: it’s because of officials who are thoroughly and utterly disengaged from the day-to-day lives of their members.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Dave Regan Confronts Hurdles in Ohio Ballot Initiative Effort

SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan recently submitted signatures to try to put an initiative targeting kidney dialysis companies on Ohio's November ballot... but he came up 10,000 short of the 306,000 needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

That left Regan with just 10 days to collect 10,000 valid signatures before a state election deadline. (Jo Ingles, “Dialysis Clinic Regulation Ballot Issue Faces More Hurdles,” WKSU, July 27, 2018.)

Yesterday, an SEIU spokesperson announced that the campaign had submitted additional signatures that should qualify the measure for the ballot. The signatures must now be validated by state officials.

How much is Regan’s Ohio ballot-initiative project costing?

Beaucoup dinero.

As of July 31, Regan’s campaign had spent more than $4.1 million, according to records posted by the Ohio Secretary of State. (SEIU-UHW’s Political Action Committee is called “Ohioans for Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection”).

In an interesting development, campaign finance disclosure reports indicate that SEIU International gave $2.5 million to the campaign. Meanwhile, SEIU-UHW has “loaned” the campaign more than $1.7 million. It’s unclear if SEIU-UHW will ever be repaid.

Why is DC-based SEIU International contributing to the campaign?

After all, Regan has warred with SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. It’s unclear what sort of internal politics lie behind this support.

Where has Regan spent the $4.1 million?

Most of the money has gone to a California signature-gathering firm that hires temporary workers to collect voters’ signatures. “In recent weeks we have seen hundreds of paid circulators,” said opponents of the measure, “many of them from out of state, gathering signatures on petitions.”

Meanwhile, Regan spent another chunk of change on polling and public-relations firms. Still other money has gone to the law firm of Regan’s personal attorney, Michael Hunter.

In June, campaign spending leaped skywards when the campaign paid more than $3.1 million to the signature-gathering firm headed by Angelo Paparella, according to disclosure records.

In yet another hurdle, Regan now faces a lawsuit over the ballot measure, which is designed to amend Ohio’s Constitution. 

The lawsuit was filed by the Ohio Renal Association, which represents the state’s 326 dialysis clinics. It seeks to block the measure from appearing on the November ballot. Of course, Regan will now have to spend gobs more money on lawyers to try to beat back the legal challenge.

So… the price tag for Regan’s ballot-initiative strategy keeps growing by the minute.

These new reports help us understand just how much money Regan is pouring into his 2018 ballot-initiative gamble, even though it doesn’t appear to be headed towards any resolution that would produce an organizing agreement between the dialysis industry and SEIU-UHW.

Stay tuned.