Saturday, June 16, 2012

SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan Joins Hospital Industry to Roll Back Nurse Staffing Law... and Suffers Smackdown

In a jaw-dropping move that’s producing seismic reactions across California, SEIU’s Dave Regan revealed just how far he’s climbed into bed with California’s hospital corporations. Here’s what’s going on.

On Thursday, Regan teamed up with the California Hospital Association to try to roll back a California law that requires hospitals to meet minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios designed to ensure safe care for patients. These safe-staffing ratios have been in place for 40 years in ICUs, Neonatal ICUs and ERs. And in 2004, the California legislature extended staffing ratios to other hospital units like oncology, medical-surgical and pediatric units.  

As caregivers and their unions pushed for the ratios, the California Hospital Association (CHA) aggressively fought them, even spending millions of dollars on an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn the law. Why?

The CHA is the “chamber of commerce” for California’s hospital industry. It’s run by multi-billion-dollar corporations like Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health, Sutter Health, HCA and Tenet Healthcare. For these companies, fewer staff means more profits. In 2010, for example, California’s hospital industry earned more than $4.4 billion in profits.

After the industry failed to roll back the ratios through lobbying and lawsuits, they enlisted their new pal, Dave Regan, to engineer a back-door legislative maneuver to achieve the same outcome. On Thursday, Regan and the CHA tried to insert language into a “trailer bill” attached to California’s state budget. The “trailer” would suspend the ratios during any meal and rest breaks. According to SEIU’s “talking points,” this initial rollback of the law would save hospital corporations more than $400 million.  

So… was “Wall Street Dave” successful in his underhanded efforts to roll back the ratio law? Not by a long shot. Instead, Regan suffered a series of head-spinning smackdowns that one source described as “utterly humiliating.” Here’s what happened:

On Thursday, Regan dispatched members of the SEIU California State Council, headed by Bill Lloyd, to the State Capitol in an effort to find a single California legislator who would “sponsor” the trailer to the budget bill. End result? Not a single legislator agreed to put their name on the bill!

Next, Regan called his buddy Art Pulaski at the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. Pulaski, who was formerly married to SEIU’s Josie Mooney, agreed to convene an “emergency” phone call of the Federation’s Executive Council, which is made up of union leaders across the state.

During Thursday night’s call, Regan personally pitched his proposal to the Executive Council and then asked the labor leaders to endorse CHA/SEIU's effort to roll back the ratio law. Regan argued that the hospital industry needed relief from the law in order to improve its profitability. (Apparently, $4.1 billion isn’t enough for Dave's buddies at the CHA.) SEIU’s Bill Lloyd also spoke in favor of the proposal.  RoseAnn DeMoro (the Executive Director of the California Nurses Association) spoke against it. 

In the end, the Executive Council voted 60-2 against Regan’s proposal! Regan’s only two votes came from SEIU officials: Bill Lloyd and Mike Garcia of SEIU Local 1877.

In case Regan’s backside wasn’t stinging enough, yesterday the California Labor Federation sent this letter to California’s governor and legislative leaders, stating:
The California Labor Federation opposes any proposal to suspend nurse-to-patient staffing ratios during meal and rest periods. Such proposal would endanger both patient safety and worker health and safety, two core values we support and defend. We ask you to not include this proposal in any budget trailer bill or legislation to come.
And in a press release issued last night, the CNA’s RoseAnn DeMoro delivered this body blow to Regan:
It would be hard to imagine a more immoral and corrupt scenario than for a labor leader to be lobbying other unions to endanger patients on behalf of corporate hospital executives whose only concern is increasing profits.
Meanwhile, a source sent Tasty an email from CNA leaders with this reference to Regan:
Nurses are miracle workers, but grafting testicles on someone is outside of our scope of practice.

And earlier today, one of NUHW’s RN leaders sent this email blast to healthcare workers across California, including SEIU’s members. Also, here's news coverage of Regan's debacle.

Tasty hears that Regan will be facing more smackdowns in the days ahead. 

Before launching his harebrained scheme, Regan somehow forgot that five SEIU unions in California happen to represent 16,000 Registered Nurses, including SEIU Locals 1021, 121, 721, 521 and 221. Oh... and these RNs are BIG big fans of the same ratio law that Regan is trying to undermine. Tasty wonders what the RNs think about SEIU just about now…

Second, Regan’s effort on behalf of some of California’s largest companies has further isolated Regan -- and SEIU -- from the rest of California’s labor movement. One person described Regan’s effort this way: “Labor should never put takeaways on the table for labor.” Another said: “What’s next? Will SEIU want to roll back laws on lunch breaks and overtime?” Tasty got other emails calling Regan “the hospital association’s toady” and “a disgrace.”

Lastly, Regan’s apparent role as a CHA lobbyist has focused new attention on his “visionary” partnership deal with the CHA, which Regan and the CHA signed last month. Regan has famously refused to allow SEIU-UHW’s own members to read the “ground-breaking” agreement, as SEIU's Steve Trossman described it. In fact, rank-and-file members of Regan’s own union filed disciplinary charges against Regan for refusing to share a copy of his secret pact with the CHA.

What does the deal say? It’s clear that the Bosses are buttering Regan’s bread. But how much butter? Is the CHA bankrolling Regan’s efforts to undermine caregivers and patients across the state?

It looks like “Wall Street Dave” has tied SEIU into so many knots that it’ll take at least a month to figure things out. That is… if Regan can extract himself from the Bosses’ bed for long enough to attend to such matters.

Tasty especially likes the following homemade graphic, sent by a reader, that captures workers’ attitudes about Dave Regan and his real bosses: