Friday, December 22, 2017

Dave Regan’s Ballot Initiative Knocks SEIU-UHW out of Kaiser Partnership

Here’s some interesting news from California.

Kaiser Permanente has blocked SEIU-UHW from participating in upcoming bargaining with its “partnership” unions after SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan filed a statewide ballot initiative targeting Kaiser, according to an internal memo issued by Kaiser executives last week. A copy of the memo along with the ballot initiative is below.

What’s going on?

Here’s what Tasty has learned so far.

Apparently, Regan has become increasingly marginalized by Kaiser’s execs and by the other “partnership” unions in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (the “Coalition”). The Coalition, which is made up of 28 unions representing 100,000 Kaiser workers across the US, bargains a national contract with Kaiser once every three years.

In late 2015, Regan sued Greg Adams, a top Kaiser exec, who served on the board of the California Hospital Association (CHA) and was caught up in Regan’s failed ballot initiative targeting the CHA.

Then, in August of 2017, Regan reportedly pissed off the other partnership unions when he tried to change the Coalition’s bylaws in order to give SEIU-UHW virtually all of the power to call the shots during the next round of national bargaining, which begins early next year. Other unions, including AFSCME, rejected Regan’s proposal, which sparked a shouting match during a three-day meeting of the partnership unions in Portland, Oregon.

Apparently, Regan has burnt turf not only with AFSCME but with SEIU locals in both Oregon and Colorado, including his erstwhile buddy Meg Niemi.

And another source reports that Regan no longer has the support of Hal Ruddick, the Executive Director of the Coalition. Ruddick is a former hack staffer at SEIU-UHW whom Regan got appointed to his position at the Coalition. Later, Regan reportedly attempted to have Ruddick fired, but was unsuccessful -- which hasn’t made Regan super popular at the Coalition’s offices.

After failing to convince the partnership unions to give him more power, Regan asked Kaiser’s execs for their help. In an internal memo issued last week, Kaiser's Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Chuck Columbus wrote:
…for months now, SEIU-UHW’s leadership has insisted in private meetings that Kaiser Permanente management negotiate with SEIU-UHW as the sole representative of the Coalition in upcoming National Bargaining. In these meetings, SEIU-UHW’s leadership has threatened that if we refused their demands, they would put an initiative on the California ballot that would adversely affect Kaiser Permanente… We said no to SEIU-UHW leadership’s demand.

Meanwhile, Kaiser reportedly has told Regan it plans to propose cuts to SEIU-UHW members’ wage structure in Northern California.

Currently, SEIU-UHW’s members from San Francisco to Sacramento to Fresno are covered by a single pay scale.
Regan and Kaiser Senior VP Chuck Columbus
Kaiser’s execs told Regan they will propose cuts such that future SEIU-UHW hires in Sacramento would earn 10% less than those in the San Francisco Bay Area, while new hires in Fresno would earn 20% less than the Bay Area.

Regan, seeing takeaways on the table and little power inside the CKPU or with Kaiser’s execs, decided to turn to his old stand-by tactic of a statewide ballot initiative. On November 16, he filed an initiative with the California Attorney General (“Accountability in Managed Health Insurance Act”) which would prohibit Kaiser from raising its monthly insurance rates until Kaiser’s capital reserves drop below a certain level.

Kaiser’s response?

Kaiser removed SEIU-UHW from next year’s partnership bargaining, saying Regan’s ballot initiative violates the terms of its partnership deal with SEIU-UHW. Kaiser’s memo says:
In sponsoring this destructive initiative, SEIU-UHW leadership has violated both the spirit and the actual terms of the agreements that set up our valued Labor Management Partnership. Accordingly, we today have informed the leadership of SEIU-UHW that we are withdrawing certain privileges of Partnership from SEIU-UHW due to the union’s outrageous conduct. Among the privileges we have withdrawn is participation of SEIU-UHW in 2018 National Bargaining. 

Kaiser’s memo then takes a shot at Regan and his ballot initiatives:
Over the past few years, SEIU-UHW leadership has used the initiative process to force concessions from various employers. All these efforts have failed. If SEIU-UHW goes ahead with spending the millions of dollars it will take to get this initiative on the ballot, we are confident that once California voters understand the impact on Kaiser Permanente, they will join us to defeat this measure in November.

These developments are quite a turnaround for Regan, who has prided himself on being Kaiser execs’ lapdog.

For example, in 2012 Regan convinced the partnership unions to adopt an invasive corporate wellness program that allows Kaiser to peer inside workers’ bodies and collect blood samples and other “biometric data” so Kaiser can monitor workers’ weight, blood pressure, smoking rate, cholesterol levels and personal lives.

In another episode, Regan directed SEIU-UHW staffers (including Greg Maron and Jared Mayhugh) to work as strikebreakers alongside Kaiser managers to stop SEIU-UHW members from joining strikes by NUHW and the California Nurses Association (CNA) at Kaiser.

And then there are Regan’s famous “wellness walks.” Instead of picket signs and picket lines, Regan gave purple pedometers to SEIU-UHW members and told them to lose weight so as to reduce Kaiser’s health insurance costs.

Regan quickly became known as Kaiser’s Richard Simmons.

If Regan has been such a loyal lapdog to Kaiser’s execs, why is Kaiser now seeking takeaways from Regan?

One observer put it this way: “Because they can.” This observer points to Regan’s failure to build a rank-and-file organization inside Kaiser facilities that can fight takeaways.

A similar explanation comes from RoseAnn DeMoro, the Executive Director of the CNA. At a rally several years ago when Regan was in the throes of his lovefest with California hospital execs, DeMoro predicted that the execs would eventually kick Regan to the curb. “These corporations will treat Regan like they do every class traitor. They’ll toss him aside once he’s no longer useful to them.” (Tasty is paraphrasing DeMoro here.)

The fact that Kaiser is coming after Regan for wage cuts in Northern California is quite a stunning historical reversal.

In the late 1980s, Kaiser unilaterally imposed a similar multi-tiered wage structure across Northern California, which Kaiser workers tried to overturn by waging a seven-week strike. Afterwards, Sal Rosselli was elected president of the union and, during the next 15 years, he and his team dramatically expanded and strengthened the union and successfully eliminated Kaiser’s multi-tiered wage structure in 2005. In fact, Rosselli went even further, negotiating improvements to Southern California Kaiser workers’ wage structures to help close the wage gap with their Northern California co-workers. (Kaiser’s Southern California workers earn substantially less than those in Northern California.)

Since parachuting into California in 2009, Regan has taken no steps whatsoever to address the lower wage rates paid to SEIU-UHW members at Kaiser’s Southern California facilities. And he’s now facing a push by Kaiser execs to re-impose the multi-tiered wage structure that Rosselli successfully eliminated back in 2005.
In other words, Regan is poised to possibly deliver a massive failure to tens of thousands of Kaiser workers.

What’s next?
Hal Ruddick, the Coalition's Executive Director
The Coalition unions have been conducting surveys and electing bargaining committees to participate in national bargaining, which begins early next year. SEIU-UHW, of course, will be on the sidelines. It won’t bargain with Kaiser until 2019, when its “local union agreement” with Kaiser expires on September 30, 2019.

As far as Regan’s ballot initiative, once it’s cleared by the California Attorney General, SEIU-UHW will need to spend millions of dollars to collect enough voter signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot.

By the way, Regan also has filed at least nine other ballot initiatives for the November 2018 ballot, which target Stanford Health Care, DaVita Inc., Watsonville Community Hospital, and Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. Regan’s increasing reliance on ballot initiatives raises an interesting question about whether his corporate targets will band together to try to block his use of ballot initiatives as bargaining leverage, as an earlier piece of California legislation appeared to do.

What do Kaiser workers say about Regan’s ballot initiative?

According to Tasty’s contacts, workers had no idea their union’s president had even filed a ballot initiative until Kaiser officials sent them the memo below.

It’s another symptom of Regan’s so-called “innovative 21st century unionism,” which relies on hiring lawyers to file ballot initiatives rather than organizing workers to build workplace power.