Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SEIU-UHW’s “Gag Clause” Turns Heads at Football Stadium

Dave Regan’s cozy relationship with the hospital industry is turning heads -- this time inside a football stadium.

In a recent article ("Dignity Health Spends Big at Levi's Stadium," September 14, 2014), the San Francisco Chronicle describes the public outrage after Dignity Health shelled out $2.5 million for a luxury skybox at the San Francisco 49ers’ new football stadium. 

Inside the air-conditioned suite, Dignity’s overpaid execs are gorging themselves on trays of food and bottles of liquor as athletes battle it out on the gridiron below.

Consumer Watchdog, a leading consumer rights organization, told the Chronicle it’s “scandalous” that Dignity Health -- a nonprofit hospital corporation -- is "wasting millions of dollars on luxury skyboxes rather than putting those charitable dollars towards patient care..."

Damn right!

Dignity’s skybox scandal appeared to offer a perfect opportunity for SEIU-UHW to attack Dignity's pinstriped priorities. To use a baseball metaphor, Dignity had served up a proverbial "softball" that SEIU-UHW could hit out of the park. After all, Dignity recently demanded -- and Dave Regan accepted -- a wage freeze for all of SEIU-UHW’s 14,000 members at Dignity.

Why, then, has SEIU-UHW been quiet as a church mouse about Dignity's skybox scandal?

Sources say it’s typical of Regan, who has implanted himself firmly in the Boss's pocket instead of at the side of workers. During recent contract negotiations, Regan helped Dignity eliminate workers’ defined-benefit pension and impose a wage freeze on 14,000 SEIU-UHW members.

Sources also point to a second interesting explanation for SEIU-UHW’s deafening silence:  the gag clause in Regan's new “partnership” deal with the California Hospital Association, signed in May of 2014.

In an internal SEIU conference call leaked to Tasty, Regan said the gag clause bans SEIU-UHW from expressing any criticism or doing any "negative campaigning" against hospital corporations. Here's what Regan said:
The Code of Conduct requires that in all of our interactions -- whether they're in the public realm, in the realm of advocacy, in the realm of media relations or press relations or political work as well as in the realm of non-union workers deciding whether or not to join our union -- we will eliminate and prohibit all negative campaigning.
To reinforce the deal, Regan brought a top Dignity exec -- Wade Rose -- to speak about the terms of the "partnership" agreement at one of SEIU-UHW’s recent Executive Board meetings.

Hmmm… So how, exactly, are Dignity's workers supposed to get any kind of justice from their
Skybox at the 49ers new stadium
multibillion-dollar employer if they can't utter a single criticism about sky-high executive salaries, wasteful spending, off-the-hook profits, and short-staffing?

Good question! It's like fighting a 300-lb. bully with both hands tied behind your back.

And that's the bottom line. Regan has fixed the fight in the Boss's favor. Which helps explain why Dignity workers' wages and benefits are suffering while their company's profits are booming. 

Several weeks ago, Dignity reported $913 million in profits for the year ended June of 2014… with one economist criticizing nonprofit Dignity's sky-high profit margin of 8.3%. (Sacramento Business Journal, "Dignity Health Sees Healthy Growth in Profit Margin," September 25, 2014).

So... for all you 49er fans out there -- keep your eyes out for SEIU’s Dave Regan. Tasty bets dollars to doughnuts he’ll soon be partying with Dignity's execs inside their $2.5 million skybox!