Tuesday, August 17, 2010

38 Members Lose Their Jobs Because the Zombies Don't Know Basic Labor Law. Unreal.

At the same time that SEIU's trustees are begging Kaiser workers for their votes in the upcoming NLRB election, California nursing home workers are getting a crash course in just how inexperienced and incompetent the SEIU trustees are. Tragically, it's come at a huge cost to workers as 38 UHW members have been fired from their jobs and 120 more workers now face cuts in their health insurance and other benefits. Here's what happened:

Before the trusteeship, SEIU-UHW represented about 160 workers at two assisted living facilities in Oakland called Piedmont Gardens and Grand Lake Gardens. As soon as SEIU imposed its trusteeship, SEIU officials removed the workers' elected Shop Stewards and even conspired with management to get the workers' Chief Steward, Stan Lacy, fired from his job. (Where have we heard that one before?)

When it came time for contract negotiations with the company, SEIU's trustees used loyalty oaths to exclude longtime rank-and-file leaders from the bargaining committee and instead put its own hand-picked people on the committee. The nursing home company clearly smelled blood in the water because SEIU's trustees had given up multiple concessions to other nursing home companies that sharply undercut the union's industry-wide contract standards--standards that took decades to achieve. Thus, Piedmont Gardens and Grand Lake Gardens demanded cuts in workers' health insurance and reductions in other benefits, and offered wage increases of only 0.5% per year.

With workers divided because of SEIU's removal of their stewards and rank-and-file leaders, SEIU's trustees called a five-day strike against the company. And in a huge blunder, the trustees apparently forgot to file the necessary unfair labor practices (ULPs) to assert that the employer violated the workers rights. An "unfair labor practice" strike makes it illegal for the employer to hire permanent replacements for the workers--thus, when the workers return to work their jobs are there waiting for them, no matter if the boss hired scabs. Striking without a "ULP" designation means that the employer can hire people to take your place at work, and when the strike is over, they don't have to give you your job back! The scab who took it, can keep it, if the boss wants!

When the strike began, fewer than half of the workers honored the strike line. And, don't let Tasty shock you, but the boss saw his opportunity and took it-- permanently replacing 38 workers who are now out on the street.

All because some idiot at UHW didn't file the necessary ULP to protect members. (We're talking a couple hours worth of effort here, folks.)

And which particular idiot is Tasty referring to? Myriam Escamilla, the Director of SEIU-UHW's Nursing Home Division. Escamilla, who also happens to be the ex-wife of Greg Pullman (Dave Regan's Chief of Staff), has never led a strike before and has never successfully negotiated a nursing home contract. (Great credentials.)

Other nursing home companies are closely watching SEIU's failure at the two facilities, and UHW members at other nursing home companies will no doubt be facing similar takeaways when they go back to the bargaining table.

While SEIU's trustees try to paint themselves as some powerful purple machine, Tasty sees them more as a band of inexperienced clowns who prefer cutting backroom deals with the boss because they have no idea how to fight for members' interests.

Oh, and lest you think this is a one time mistake, don't forget about the strike this spring at Prison Health Services where SEIU sent workers out on strike, but failed to put the end date on the strike notice and the workers got locked out...Those workers voted for NUHW after the strike.