Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Countdown to Giant Kaiser Strike

In California, the battle lines are drawn as Kaiser workers prepare for a massive strike next week.

On one side are 23,000 Kaiser workers. Last week, NUHW notified Kaiser that 4,000 of its members plan to strike. One day later, the California Nurses Association (CNA) said its members will walk off the job with NUHW’s members. And on Monday, Tasty learned that nearly 2,000 members of Stationary Engineers Local 39 will also honor the first statewide strike in Kaiser’s history.

So who’s on the other side of the battle lines? You guessed it:  Kaiser Permanente and SEIU. Kaiser, after pocketing $5.6 billion in profits in the past 2 ½ years, is refusing to fix serious short-staffing problems. Meanwhile, the company’s fat-cat executives -- like the bosses at Verizon -- are trying to use the recession as “cover” to ram through deep cuts in workers’ health insurance and pensions.

Where’s SEIU? Snuggling deep in bed with Kaiser’s bosses. According to multiple sources, SEIU has already inked a secret deal with Kaiser to slash SEIU members’ benefits and pensions. In fact, Tasty hears that a top Kaiser H.R. official recently confirmed his company’s deal with SEIU during discussions with one of Kaiser’s unions.  

SEIU’s backroom deal -- like the ones that Stan Lyles describes in this video -- helps explain why SEIU refused to whisper a word of complaint when Kaiser recently slashed the benefits of 1,000 Kaiser pharmacists who’re members of the Pharmacists Guild.

And it also explains why SEIU is working overtime to undermine the three unions’ upcoming strike -- just like it did in these earlier strikes.

In fact, Tasty hears that Dave Regan met last week with Kaiser execs and pledged to stop SEIU’s members from honoring the strike. SEIU and Kaiser have become increasingly nervous as thousands of SEIU’s members make plans to thumb their noses at Kaiser and its company union, and then walk off the job with their co-workers.

Like a two-headed reptile, Kaiser and SEIU have launched their latest “partnership” project:  a coordinated “fear” campaign to try to stop SEIU’s members from joining the strike. Tasty hears that Kaiser and SEIU are telling workers they’ll be fired or disciplined if they honor the strike. Of course, that’s a heap of B.S.  When workers ask them to put it in writing, the threats melt away like snow in May.

Well, my friends, this is quite a defining moment. Take a step back. The latest developments in California tell quite a story about the various unions and what they stand for. As Tasty’s grandpa always said, there ain’t nothing like a strike to help clarify things.

The old mineworkers’ anthem says it straight and simple like this: “Which side are you on?