Friday, February 23, 2018

SEIU’s David Rolf Joins Andy Stern in Pimping for Uber

Andy Stern and Andy's "Mini-Me" David Rolf

Remember when SEIU President Emeritus Andy Stern began working as a consultant for Airbnb, Handy, and other tech firms to help them try to undermine gig-economy workers’ right to be treated as regular employees?

Well, another SEIU official is now following “Handy” Andy’s lead.

Last month, SEIU Local 775 President David Rolf (a.k.a. Andy Stern’s “Mini-Me”) signed an open letter with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer. 

The letter calls on “business, labor and government in Washington state to join us” in an effort to push state legislation that reportedly would consign gig workers to a second-class status as independent contractors without the right to overtime pay, unemployment insurance, disability insurance, Social Security, meal and rest breaks, etc.

For years, Uber drivers and other gig-economy workers have been fighting to force tech companies to treat them as regular employees. They’ve filed class-action action lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in back pay. And in Seattle, Uber drivers and Teamsters Local 117 successfully passed a law allowing Uber drivers to unionize.

Uber executives have been aggressively fighting workers’ organizing efforts in the courts as well as by launching an anti-union campaign in Seattle consisting of TV ads, online ads, text and e-mail blasts to drivers, anti-union meetings, and even an anti-union podcast.

And, in case workers are successful, Uber is also trying to do an end-run around workers’ efforts by trying to pass state laws that would permanently legislate gig workers into “independent contractor” status and create a second tier of so-called “portable benefits” for them.

That’s where Stern and Rolf come into the story.

In 2016, the tech companies hired Andy Stern as a lobbyist to help them try to pass such a bill in the New York legislature. Fortunately, that effort stalled due to opposition.

Following their failure in New York, the tech companies are now trying their luck in Washington State… with the help of David Rolf and Andy Stern. According to Uber’s website:
Last year, Uber approached David Rolf with SEIU 775 and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer about working together on the creation of a portable benefits system in Washington state… Following several productive discussions, we developed a joint letter calling on business, labor, and government to work together to address this important problem.

On January 23, 2018, Uber published a letter signed by Uber’s CEO, SEIU’s Rolf, and the venture capitalist. At the top of the letter is Uber’s logo alongside SEIU’s.

So, how are people responding to Rolf’s so-called “innovative” deal with Uber?

Here’s a sample, according to Bloomberg. (Josh Eidelson, “Uber-Union Proposal on Benefits Met With Skepticism From Labor,” Bloomberg, January 25, 2018).

New York Taxi Workers Alliance Director Bhairavi Desai told Bloomberg: “Selling out to the bosses is not innovative—it’s as old as capitalism."

Desai continued: “This type of bogus agreement only gives them [tech companies] cover for exploitation.”

Damn right!

In fact, Rolf has even been criticized by an official inside his own union, according to Bloomberg:
“This is just a facelift by Uber to be able to look like they actually care about the people who they hire for the services they provide,” said Hector Figueroa, who is president of SEIU’s East Coast property services affiliate and serves with Rolf on the international union’s executive board. “I just cannot comprehend how today, as a labor leader, I would be encouraging the spread of ‘independent’ work.”

Interesting, right?

Why is Rolf’s help so important to Uber?

First, Rolf’s union is one of the largest in Washington state and he's developed lots of relationships with politicians. If Uber is successful in passing its legislation in one state, it can then push similar legislation nationally, says Bloomberg’s Eidelson.
Uber hopes working with Rolf and Hanauer to pass legislation in Washington will change the national conversation on these issues, showing how benefits can be decoupled from traditional employee-employer status, and opening a less adversarial phase in the debate over how laws should treat gig-economy workers, a spokesperson said.
The trio, and whichever additional allies they can muster, will try to get a first-of-its-kind system passed into law in Washington state, which is Rolf and Hanauer’s home as well as one of the few places where Democrats have unified control of government and legislation on the issue is already being debated.
While the letter is light on details, the spokesperson said Uber wants to gather additional stakeholders and formulate a proposal that could be introduced in next year’s legislative session. Among the things a bill should do, the spokesperson said, is make clear that workers like Uber drivers are not employees.

Uber drivers protesting low pay
Meanwhile, Stern is working other channels to help Uber and tech companies permanently relegate their workers to independent-contractor status.

In December 2016, Stern co-authored a proposal with Eli Lehrer (President of the right-wing “R Street Institute” in Washington DC) calling on the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and White House to grant “waivers” to states to allow them to escape the requirements of federal labor laws. The waivers would be a boon to tech companies, which Stern calls “sharing-economy companies” with “innovative business models.”

Stern, a master of deception and disinformation, entitled his proposal: “How to Modernize Labor Law.”

Does SEIU have no shame?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Dave Regan's Chickens Come Home to Roost for 15,000 SEIU-UHW Members at Dignity Health

In another sign of trouble, SEIU-UHW is reportedly facing demands for takeaways from Dignity Health during contract negotiations that began last month. The current contract, which is set to expire April 30, covers 15,000 workers and is SEIU-UHW’s second largest contract after Kaiser Permanente.

According to SEIU-UHW, Dignity wants to eliminate SEIU-UHW members’ access to fully employer-paid family health insurance, which has been a standard benefit at unionized California hospitals since the 1970s. Instead, management wants SEIU-UHW members to pay $125 per month to get health insurance for a spouse, and $175 per month for a spouse and children. Only “employee-only” coverage would be free to workers.

The demands spell trouble for Dave Regan.

SEIU-UHW members are already reportedly facing takeaways from Kaiser, which is the union’s largest employer. According to Regan, Kaiser wants 10%-20% cuts to the wage scales for future hires in California’s Central Valley, stretching from Sacramento to Fresno. Kaiser says it hasn’t begun negotiations with SEIU-UHW and has not yet put any proposals on the table.

So... in 2018, Regan will be in defensive bargaining covering more than 70% of the union’s membership even though both Kaiser and Dignity are flush with profits.

What’s going on?

The two companies apparently see Regan as vulnerable.

And Regan is vulnerable. But he can only blame himself for SEIU-UHW’s current problems. Why?

Because he laid the groundwork for the cuts by negotiating similar benefit cuts and wage freezes with other hospital companies. “We want the same cuts you gave to the other companies,” the execs at Dignity and Kaiser seemed to be telling Regan.

Soon after parachuting into California in 2009, Regan quickly began slashing workers’ long-established contract standards. Alameda Hospital was the first hospital where Regan agreed to eliminate SEIU-UHW members’ fully employer-paid family health benefits. Instead of paying $0 for family health coverage, Regan required SEIU-UHW members to pay $170 per month to get coverage for their children. Once the ink was dry on Dave’s signature at the bottom of the contract, Alameda Hospital executive Kerry Easthope told the San Jose Mercury News that Regan’s cuts were “a groundbreaking concession.” (Michele Ellso, “Alameda Hospital employees to get pay raise,“ San Jose Mercury News, 04/30/2009)

Next, Regan negotiated similar cuts to health insurance with entire hospital chains like the Daughters of Charity Healthcare System. In 2012, Regan used ramrod ratification votes to force massive concessions down the throats of thousands of thousands of Daughters of Charity workers. Regan tossed their fully employer-paid family health coverage in the trash can. Instead, SEIU-UHW members were forced to pay 25% of the monthly health insurance premiums -- or hundreds of dollars a month.

Regan also eliminated workers’ defined-benefit pension plan (he replaced it with a 401k plan), implemented an invasive corporate wellness program, and allowed the company to double workers’ out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions, doctors visits and other healthcare procedures.

At Dignity, Regan agreed to eliminate workers’ defined-benefit pension plan and accepted wage freezes for 15,000 SEIU-UHW members... even though the company was making profits.

So… is it a shocker that Kaiser and Dignity are now coming to Regan for more cuts?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan Withdraws Ballot Initiative Targeting Kaiser Permanente

As Tasty’s internal sources predicted, Dave Regan has withdrawn his California ballot initiative targeting Kaiser Permanente, according to an e-mail distributed today by Kaiser executives to employees.

The e-mail, sent by Kaiser’s Chief Human Resources Officer Chuck Columbus, states:
We wanted to let you know that the leadership of SEIU-UHW has notified Kaiser Permanente that the union has withdrawn its proposed ballot initiative that would have affected Kaiser Permanente if it became law.
We acknowledge the union’s decision to set aside the ballot initiative. There is more work to be done in reaffirming our Labor Management Partnership, and recommitting to our core principles of partnership, and that work is underway.

One day before the announcement, Regan launched a hastily choreographed maneuver aimed at trying to convince SEIU-UHW’s members that he’s not weak and isn’t in fact scurrying away from a fight with Kaiser with his tail between his legs. 

With much chest-pumping, Regan yesterday announced that SEIU-UHW will hold “protests” at 32 Kaiser hospitals between February 14 and March 9. It’s unclear what the “protests” will be.

What’s behind Regan’s “protest” announcement?

Since last summer, Regan has been telling SEIU-UHW members that his ballot initiative is the secret weapon that’ll prevent Kaiser from implementing cuts to SEIU-UHW members’ wage scales for future hires in California’s Central Valley. Now that Regan is dropping the ballot initiative, workers will inevitably ask: “Did Dave just cave into the boss? Did he just throw us under the bus? If we no longer have a ballot initiative, then what’s the plan?”

Will workers actually buy Regan’s damage-control maneuver? It remains to be seen.

Better yet… does Regan actually have a “Plan B” to confront Kaiser’s demand for wage cuts?

Lastly, will Regan ever have a successful ballot initiative... which he's spent tens of millions of union members' dues money on, according to Politico?

What's next?

It appears that Regan wants to rejoin the partnership unions’ 2018 national bargaining process, which is scheduled to begin next month. However, Regan and SEIU-UHW’s members will join the negotiations with a much diminished stature after Regan torched relationships with other partnership unions and burned a bunch of bridges with his former pals at Kaiser. For example, for months Regan has demanded that the other partnership unions allow him to take control of the national bargaining, which was strongly resisted by the unions.

Here’s a copy of the e-mail sent today by Kaiser’s Chuck Columbus:

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Source: Dave Regan Will Withdraw Ballot Initiative Targeting Kaiser Permanente

According to an internal source, SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan will soon withdraw the California ballot initiative he recently filed against Kaiser Permanente.

There’s no official confirmation of the withdrawal yet, but Tasty’s internal sources say it’s coming.

Last week, top officials from the labor-management partnership unions convened in Washington DC for a closed-door meeting with Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson

At a pre-meeting, some union leaders reportedly discussed the idea of tossing SEIU-UHW out of the labor-management partnership. Kaiser earlier barred SEIU-UHW from participating in the partnership’s 2018 national bargaining.

Meanwhile, last week Kaiser mounted a direct-mail campaign targeting SEIU-UHW’s members with news that Regan’s initiative -- which could place a cap Kaiser’s future revenues -- would undermine the HMO’s ability to fund SEIU-UHW members’ pensions and other benefits.

Regan’s withdrawal of the initiative is not a shocker. After all, Regan has a track record of committing a staggering series of f*uck-ups when it comes to is ballot initiatives.

In 2016, Regan was forced to withdraw an Arizona ballot initiative targeting the hospital industry after hiring paid circulators who collected 281,000 signatures from voters. Why? Regan apparently forgot to make sure the signature-gatherers were legally qualified to collect signatures. Whoops!

Also in 2016, Regan was forced to drop a California ballot initiative against the California Hospital Association because it violated a gag clause that Regan himself had earlier signed as part of his secret deal with hospital executives.

In each withdrawal, Regan had already spent millions of SEIU-UHW members’ funds on the failed efforts.

On Monday, Politico’s Victoria Colliver also noted Regan’s record of misfiring on his million-dollar ballot initiatives.
SEIU-UHW has a history of filing ballot measures that would affect organizations whose workers it represents, or wants to. Most of them never actually get voted on: The union has often dropped them partway through the arduous ballot-qualification process…
The referendum strategy doesn't come cheap. It costs money to file measures, pay people to gather signatures, hire lawyers to review language and fend off challenges, and foot the bill for advertising and other expenses associated with mounting what is basically a political campaign.
The union has spent $21.2 million on ballot measures in California since the 2012 election cycle…

Politico: SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan Spent $21.2 million on Ballot Initiatives

$21.2 million on ballot initiatives
SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan has spent $21.2 million on ballot initiatives since the 2012 election cycle, according to an article published this week in Politico. (Victoria Colliver, “California union leverages ballot initiatives for health care on its own terms,” Politico, February 5, 2018).

And, says Politico, he’s about to dip even deeper into the SEIU-UHW’s coffers.

This year, Regan has filed 10 initiatives for the November 2018 ballot -- “more referendums than in the past six years combined.” Yesterday, SEIU-UHW announced it’ll spend $3.5 million on advertising this year for just one of its 10 initiatives.

What does SEIU-UHW have to show for Regan’s multi-million dollar ballot-initiative bonanza?

Not much, says Politico.
Not a single one of its initiatives in recent years has taken effect. Of the seven statewide measures filed between 2012 and 2016, five were dropped before submitting signatures to qualify… [A sixth] was pulled before voting when an arbitrator ruled it violated an earlier agreement between SEIU-UHW and the hospitals.
 In a rare local victory, Santa Clara County voters in 2012 approved a salary cap at El Camino Hospital — but a judge later ruled the initiative process did not apply to health care districts.

If Regan is so fascinated with ballot initiatives, shouldn’t he be running a political consulting firm instead of a labor union?

After all, imagine if he’d spent those $21.2 million on worksite organizing, mounting aggressive contract fights to win better wages and workplace standards, training rank-and-file leaders, enforcing workers’ contracts…

So why is Regan pouring tens of millions of dollars of SEIU-UHW’s budget into ballot measures?

First, it keeps all of the power in his hands and those of his consultants and lawyers.

And it keeps the union’s members demobilized. No need to create strong shopfloor organization at Kaiser Permanente to fight concessionary bargaining when, according to Dave, you can simply file a ballot initiative. A demobilized membership means no threat to Dave's hold on power.

Thirdly, it lets Regan tell the membership he actually has some sort of plan to win. “Ballot initiatives – the new multi-million dollar miracle pill to solve all our problems!”

Of course, Regan’s ballot initiative strategy has another massive weakness. Laws can change. At some point soon, Tasty predicts the corporations will pass laws outlawing Regan’s use of California’s voter-initiated ballot measure system as a tool for exerting leverage on companies.

What’ll Dave do at that point?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Union Heads Meet with Kaiser CEO in D.C. over Dave Regan’s Ballot Initiative

SEIU's Mary Kay Henry and AFSCME's Lee Saunders

Dave Regan’s ballot initiative against Kaiser Permanente prompted a secret confab this week in Washington DC, say Tasty’s sources.

On Monday, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson reportedly met with top officials from the partnership unions, known as the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

Who was in the room?

The presidents of many of the international unions that participate in the partnership including the AFT’s Randi Weingarten and AFSCME’s Lee Saunders

SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry reportedly attended a pre-meeting, but then ducked out of the room before the Kaiser CEO showed up. It looks like Mary Kay Henry didn’t want to face Tyson, who says SEIU-UHW’s ballot initiative would jeopardize the future financial stability of the HMO.

Meanwhile, Kaiser took another shot at Regan this week.

The HMO mailed a two-page letter to the homes of tens of thousands of SEIU-UHW members with the heading, “We need your help securing our future together: Help stop an attack on Kaiser Permanente.” The letter calls on the union’s members to contact Regan and tell him to “stop putting our future at risk.” Tasty guesses this is one piece of what’ll likely be a campaign to turn the hearts and minds of SEIU-UHW members against their erratic president.

Regan, after parachuting into California into 2009, surgically attached himself to the hips of Kaiser’s execs… even working with them to try to break strikes by NUHW and the California Nurses Association. So it’s not hard to understand why Regan’s recent attack on Kaiser -- which caused Kaiser execs to block SEIU-UHW from participating in upcoming national bargaining -- is causing SEIU-UHW’s members to scratch their heads.

Here’s a copy of the letter Kaiser sent to SEIU-UHW members: