Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sarah Palin would say that the Workers Refudiated SEIU.

And she would be right!

SEIU held elections in Ohio at a Catholic hospital chain called CHP. And they lost, big time.

They won 4 units.
They lost 39 units.
They are waiting to resolve 1 unit, because of challenge ballots.

That's right: less than 10% of workers chose to have a union, with just SEIU on the ballot.

So, why does this matter? The election with CHP was supposed to be the feather in the hat of the current leadership of SEIU, and signal a new day in union organizing. This election was Mary Kay's baby.

A little history--SEIU has long supported bargaining neutrality agreements, which are bargained with an employer to make the process of organizing less intimidating to workers. In this case, the employer is not allowed to intimidate the workers, but unlike most agreements--SEIU was also not allowed to talk to the workers about the union except in leaflets and letters that the employer and SEIU write together and on a 1-800 number that workers can call if they wanna! In other words, the workers were not allowed to form an organization of themselves--the most basic description of what a union does. Learn more about the agreement here.

SEIU has faced a lot of criticism in the labor movement for bargaining very weak agreements that waived a lot of their members' rights and treated the union as a 3rd party. Of course, pre-trusteeship SEIU-UHW leaders were amongst the most critical of such watered down agreements--like the Alliance agreement in California. And we all know how SEIU dealt with them.

In fact, this agreement with CHP was negotiated years ago, and in 2008 SEIU and CHP informed workers by letter that they would have union election in a matter of days. The California Nurses Association leafleted the hospital just days before the election, and many workers became concerned with what CNA called a "sweetheart deal." SEIU pulled out of the election and blamed the CNA--including a violent confrontation where an SEIU member lost his life and SEIU staff assaulted attendees of a Labor Notes conference.

But SEIU didn't give up in the agreement. CHP was considered the test case--if it worked SEIU could use it to run similar elections in Catholic health care facilities all over the country. SEIU leadership from Ohio (Scott Courtney, Dave Regan, Joyce Moscato, etc) had spent millions of dues dollars and years working on this agreement, and Mary Kay had negotiated it herself. So, SEIU waited a few years after the CNA intervention, and tried again this past week.

And lost terribly.

But, Tasty guesses that SEIU won't be admitting their failure anytime soon--it would endanger the rest of the deal with Catholic hospitals. According to Modern Healthcare: “We remain convinced that our agreement produced a fair and balanced process for employees to choose whether or not to form a union,” Wright said Friday. “We believe our agreement … sets an example for how to avoid the tension and conflict that often accompanies organizing campaigns.”

Fair and Balanced says it all, right?