Sunday, May 11, 2014

SEIU-UHW’s Deal with the CHA: “It's a con game. And the workers are the mark.”

Check out the following op-ed by NUHW’s Sal Rosselli regarding Dave Regan’s recently announced "partnership deal" with the California Hospital Association. Rosselli hits the nail on the head!

Payers and Providers

The SEIU-UHW Sold Out To Hospitals

Its New Pact with the CHA Undermines Trade Unionism

By Sal Rosselli

May 8, 2014   

Earlier this week, SEIU-UHW and the California Hospital Association announced a three-year "partnership" — a sweetheart deal in which the union has sold out its members to curry favor with employers. The employers, in turn, will allow SEIU to unionize more workers, but under terms favorable to the employers. It's a vicious cycle of corruption that undermines healthcare workers' livelihoods, compromises their ability to advocate for their patients, and dispenses with the core principles upon which trade unionism is based.

In a vague summary of the deal and in an evasive performance during a conference call with journalists, SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan and CHA President C. Duane Dauner tried to convince the public that SEIU scuttled two threatened ballot initiatives — one that would have capped CEO compensation and another that would have limited how much hospitals can charge consumers — merely for the opportunity to work with CHA to increase Medicaid payments to hospitals.

Regan and Dauner proclaimed their agreement as "visionary" — but we're not allowed to see it. They claim it embraces "transparency" — but the details will be kept secret.

Fortunately, the secret is out. According to a May 2 story in the Wall Street Journal, which obtained documents pertaining to the deal during the negotiation process, CHA will let SEIU immediately begin organizing as many as 60,000 California healthcare workers without interference from the employers and with full access to to workplaces. In return, SEIU would force those workers into pre-negotiated contracts that ban strikes, keep wages low and benefits to a minimum, and restrict the workers' right to criticize the employer or report healthcare violations that endanger patients.

Finally, SEIU agreed to drop as much as $40 million of worker dues into an "advocacy fund" that hospital CEOs will use to promote a state ballot initiative to increase by $6 billion the payments Medicaid makes to hospitals. SEIU says this money will eventually trickle down to workers, but don't count on it. The initiative is two years away at best, and any funds it brings in will surely get funneled to the already fat profit margins enjoyed by healthcare corporations and the obscene executive compensation packages that have become commonplace in the industry.

And once that process is complete, CHA will then allow SEIU to organize thousands more workers and force them, too, into pre-negotiated contracts.

It's a racket. It's a con game. And the workers are the mark. If it wasn't clear before, it's perfectly clear now: SEIU is a company union. In exchange for adding more members to its rolls and more member dues to its coffers, SEIU is betraying its own members by undermining the livelihoods, health benefits, and working conditions of hundreds of thousands of California healthcare workers.

This deal is just the latest evidence that SEIU has abandoned the fundamental principles of trade unionism — principles that we at the National Union of Healthcare Workers hold dear: democracy, patient advocacy, and commitment to worker representation.

SEIU has drastically reduced its worker representation, curtailed members' participation in their own affairs, and eliminated the union's watchdog role on behalf of patients by embracing a "code of conduct."

Moving forward, SEIU will quietly collect dues, but will do little to raise questions. Regan says he wants to keep everything "positive." But it's important to have checks and balances in a quality healthcare system — workers need a voice, and patients need an advocate. The unfortunate reality of the SEIU-CHA deal is that the union has gone to bed with the employer, leaving workers with nothing more than a false positive.