Thursday, April 11, 2013

News from the Kaiser Election

Here’s the latest from the Kaiser Permanente election in California.

First, check out an article by labor journalist Steve Early from “In These Times” that’s entitled “The Big Do-Over at Kaiser.”

Early describes his visit last week to Kaiser Vacaville Medical Center where NUHW and SEIU-UHW had “warring information tables set up in the hospital cafeteria” with supporters in Red and Purple on opposite sides of the cafeteria. Here's an excerpt:

In the NUHW-CNA corner of the cafeteria, a longtime medical records keeper named Jerry Corpus had a different view of that bargaining history. Corpus, who retired last month, comes from a big, extended Kaiser family: His wife is an unhappy SEIU member, his sister a CNA-represented nurse, his mother, brother, son, nephews and nieces are or have been on the Kaiser payroll. For more than a decade, during his own 23-year hospital career, Corpus was active in the pre-trusteeship UHW (then SEIU Local 250). Why did he curtail a long-planned, post-retirement fishing trip to campaign for NUHW-CNA? “If we stay with SEIU, it will affect my whole family,” he explained.

According to Corpus, it was the pre-trusteeship UHW leaders, including Rosselli and Kaiser division director Ralph Cornejo, who helped members fight, for two decades, to achieve “the best contract in the hospital industry.” Now, he believes, that agreement has been weakened by “many takeaways” and lack of union enforcement, particularly in the area of job security. Since the trusteeship, SEIU-UHW has agreed to pension and medical plan changes reducing Kaiser’s benefit costs by $2.1 billion, during a period when it was racking up record profits of more than $8 billion. Kaiser’s elimination of 1,000 jobs has gone largely uncontested by SEIU-UHW; job security is also being undermined through sub-contracting and use of “per diem” employees who should be converted to regular status.

“If you’re a strong union, you’re for the employee, not the employer,” Corpus said. “But it doesn’t seem like that’s happening any more. The managers now are just walking all over people. When we were Local 250, management respected the union and the union kept us informed. We had steward councils and our local leaders never made a move unless employees first had a voice in the decision.”

Early goes on to describe major issues in the election (like representation, the "partnership," concessionary bargaining, etc) and also discusses the significance of the election for the U.S. labor movement. Here’s a link to the full article.

Next, a reader sent this report from Kaiser San Jose Medical Center in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tasty, you shoulda been here. We had a red day today at my hospital. Red was everywhere! Sal came at lunch. Tons of people went to the cafeteria to see him. More than 150. SEIU had a table but nobody was going to their side. The purples were just looking at us, real depressed. Then the seiu reps told the stewards to march over, try to mess with Sal. But there was so many of us and the stewards got pissed off at the reps. Then 3 of the purple stewards came over and hugged Sal and asked him to put his autograph in their books. He did. Hope they saw the light and vote Red to make us strong again!

Finally, here are a few pics, homemade campaign props -- and even a video -- from Kaiser hospitals.


And check out this video from an NUHW supporter!