Friday, June 29, 2018

SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan Comes Up Empty on Multi-Million Dollar Ballot Initiative Gamble

 The odds on Dave Regan’s ballot-initiative gamble just got a bit longer.

Regan, who has already spent upwards of $6 million of SEIU-UHW’s funds on a California initiative targeting kidney dialysis clinics, was hoping the dialysis industry would agree to a special unionization deal in exchange for Regan dropping his initiative off the ballot.

That didn’t happen.

Yesterday was the last chance for Regan and other initiative sponsors to withdraw their ballot initiatives in advance of California’s statewide elections in November.

What does this mean?

Regan’s initiative is headed to the November ballot… and he’ll now have to spend millions more to battle for Californians’ votes during the next three months.

The price tag could be steep. California is a hugely expensive electoral battleground due to its massive population of 40 million residents and its high-cost media markets.

His opponent, the dialysis industry, has plenty of cash. Their campaign is bankrolled by DaVita and Fresenius, which reported a combined $3.9 billion in profits during 2016, according to SEIU-UHW.

As soon as yesterday’s deadline passed, the dialysis industry put out a press release with this headline:
Coalition of doctors, nurses, patients, caregivers vows to defeat the Dangerous Dialysis Proposition that puts dialysis patients’ lives at risk; Deeply-flawed initiative will be on the November 2018 California ballot.

What’s the takeaway from yesterday’s developments?

Regan played a multi-million-dollar game of chicken with the dialysis industry, spending $6 million to get his dialysis initiative on the ballot and to run threatening TV, radio and print ads across the US. And he lost.

At this point, it’s unclear how he could possibly squeeze a victory from this situation. Even if his initiative wins at the ballot box in November, it will reportedly impose substantial economic costs on the dialysis industry and will not move SEIU-UHW anywhere closer to a unionization deal with DaVita and Fresenius.

These developments underscore both the riskiness and costliness of Regan’s ballot-initiative strategy.

They also spell possible political problems for Regan, decided to double down on ballot initiatives in 2018. This year, he introduced no fewer than ten ballot initiatives, more than any year before. He did this despite the fact that during the past seven years, he spent more than $30 million of SEIU-UHW’s budget on 20+ ballot initiatives, all of which were unsuccessful in producing unionization victories.

If Regan’s ballot-initiative strategy crashes and burns in 2018, will the union’s members and Executive Board hold him accountable? 

And will he end his addiction to ballot initiatives and instead invest the union’s tens of millions of dollars into aggressive contract fights, contract enforcement and worker organizing campaigns?

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Adios, Dave: Union Quits Coalition to Join Rival Alliance of Kaiser’s “Partnership” Unions

Dave Regan’s Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (“the Coalition”) just got smaller.

Last week, UNITE HERE Local 5 -- which represents 2,000 Kaiser workers in Hawaii -- announced its decision to leave the Coalition and join the Alliance of Health Care Unions (“the Alliance”).

Formed in March 2018, the Alliance is a rival group of “partnership” unions that bolted the Coalition following Regan’s attempt to seize greater control over unions’ decision-making process.

In a June 18th announcement on its website, the Alliance describes the development this way:
On Wednesday, June 13, the Alliance Steering Committee accepted UNITE HERE Local 5 as our newest member. Alliance Chair Kathleen Theobald hailed the move, saying “The union makes us strong – and the more unions in our Alliance, the stronger we are. Local 5 is a powerful, committed local union with experienced leadership, and we’re very happy to welcome them!” Local 5 represents approximately 2,000 KP workers in Hawaii.
“With our contract expiring in a few months, UNITE HERE Local 5 has joined the other Kaiser unions with 2018 expiration dates in bargaining,” said Secretary-Treasurer Eric Gill. “Together, we will achieve a contract settlement that meets our economic needs, builds greater solidarity among our allied unions and holds Kaiser management responsible to the highest degree of partnership with unionized Kaiser workers.  We appreciate the Alliance’s prompt acceptance of our union’s participation.”

In a post on its own website, UNITE HERE Local 5 told its members:
Aloha Kaiser Brothers and Sisters,
UNITE HERE! Local 5 was accepted into the Alliance of Health Care Unions yesterday… As a member of the Alliance, we will join 45,000 Kaiser workers from 21 other locals in attaining a National Agreement. That process has already begun. Local bargaining will also commence in the coming weeks. Please stay involved and committed to getting a good contract that benefits all.

Local 5’s departure represents a blow to the Coalition and SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan. Local 5’s President, Eric Gill, held the second highest position on the Coalition’s Board of Directors. Gill was the “Vice Chair” while Regan serves as the “Chair.”

The move leaves the Coalition with 11 local unions from three international unions (SEIU, the Office and Professional Employees International Union, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees).

Meanwhile, the Alliance has 22 local unions from nine international unions (Teamsters, Steelworkers, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, UFCW, ILWU, Operating Engineers, UNITE HERE and the KPNAA).

Will the Coalition keep on shrinking?

Definitely possible, say sources.

Tasty hears that OPEIU Local 30 is weighing a switch to the Alliance. Such a move would be especially embarrassing for Regan since Local 30’s Executive Director Walter Allen currently serves as the Coalition’s “Interim Executive Director” following the departure of Hal Ruddick.

UNITE HERE’s exit follows the departure of a number of the Coalition’s longtime staff, some of whom quit in order to join the Alliance. Tasty hears these defections are continuing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

City Sues SEIU-UHW over Ballot Initiative

Alameda County Superior Court

SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan is headed to a court tomorrow to face new challenges over his ballot initiatives.

The latest challenge comes the City of Emeryville, a tiny city of 12,000 residents sandwiched between Oakland and Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

Emeryville’s City Attorney sued SEIU-UHW alleging that one of Regan’s ballot initiatives is unconstitutional, violates due process rules, and is preempted by state and federal laws.

Tomorrow, the two sides will face off in Alameda County Superior Court over the City Attorney’s request for a court order to block SEIU-UHW from proceeding with its initiative. (See lawsuit below: Alameda County Superior Court, “Michael A. Guina vs. Smith,” Case No. RG18887782.)

The lawsuit revolves around virtually identical ballot initiatives filed by Regan earlier this year in five cities -- Palo Alto, Redwood City, Pleasanton, Livermore and Emeryville -- targeting Stanford Health Care, which operates two hospitals, a cancer center and multiple clinics in various cities. Regan is working to put the initiatives on each city's November 2018 ballot.

In addition to the suit filed by Emeryville, Stanford recently announced it, too, will sue SEIU-UHW if a ballot initiative moves forward in the City of Palo Alto.

In May, multiple hospitals and industry groups -- including Stanford, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, John Muir Health and the California Hospital Association -- filed an “amici curiae brief” in the Emeryville litigation in support of that city.
Emeryville City Attorney Michael Guina
Meanwhile, ten days ago the City of Palo Alto met in closed session to consider whether it will file its on lawsuit against SEIU-UHW. (Gennady Sheyner, “Battle over health care costs hits Palo Alto,” Palo Alto Daily Post, June 15, 2018.)

What does Regan want from Stanford?

SEIU-UHW represents hundreds of caregivers at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto. Recently, SEIU-UHW attempted to unionize workers at a second non-union hospital that recently affiliated with Stanford. However, SEIU-UHW was unsuccessful. Regan hopes he can convince Stanford to ink a special unionization deal with him in exchange for Regan’s withdrawal of the ballot initiative.

A unionization deal might be similar to the one Regan secretly negotiated with the California Hospital Association. Regan’s deal would have forced non-union workers into pre-negotiated labor contracts with substandard wages and benefits, banned workers from striking, and imposed gag rules barring workers from reporting patient-care violations to government oversight agencies. That deal eventually imploded in a firestorm of lawsuits that were triggered by Regan’s violations of the terms of the deal.

What would Regan’s ballot initiative do to Stanford?

It would prohibit Stanford’s hospitals and clinics from charging more than 115% of the “reasonable cost of direct patient care.” Stanford claims this will dramatically cut its revenues and -- in a thinly veiled threat to SEIU-UHW’s existing members at Stanford Hospital -- may cause Stanford to cut those workers’ benefits and staffing levels. Here’s a quote from Stanford’s recent letter to the City of Palo Alto (see below for the full letters):
In that regard, Stanford’s preliminary calculations indicate that implementation of the initiative would result in a 20-25% drop in its revenues, which is many times greater than Stanford’s margin. As a consequence, Stanford would have to implement cuts to its staffing and benefit levels, facilities, and/or programs to avoid violating the statute.

Why is the City Emeryville suing SEIU-UHW?

Stanford also operates healthcare facilities in Emeryville. The city argues that Regan’s initiative, if successful, would harm its residents’ access to healthcare services by driving health care facilities out of the city and undermining the city’s economic development.
Dave Regan

Is Regan’s unionization-via-ballot-initiative a realistic strategy for boosting U.S. labor unions’ declining membership and flagging strength?

During the past seven years, Regan has spent upwards of $30 million on 20+ ballot initiatives, all of which were unsuccessful in unionizing even a single worker.

Instead, say critics, Regan should have spent SEIU-UHW’s $30+ million in dues money to recruit, organize and train workers – as well as wage effective contract fights to boost workers’ pay, benefits and working conditions.

If Regan could demonstrate SEIU-UHW’s ability to successfully raise workers’ pay and benefits and improve their working conditions, then workers would want to join it. Instead, Regan has given away SEIU-UHW members’ pension plans, health benefits, and working conditions during one contract negotiation after the next.

Secondly, critics say it’s inevitable that employers will fight ballot initiatives in the courts, which are not a friendly forum for unions to do battle. The courts, they say, seldom give unions a fair shake. In addition, legal battles force unions to spend vast amounts of money on high-paid lawyers.

Lastly, critics say SEIU’s so-called “organizing deals” with corporations don’t build the kind of strong, well-organized worksites that are essential for fighting and winning better workplace standards. Unionized worksites are strongest when they grow out of bottom-up efforts led by workers. Under Regan’s approach, the union is installed through a secret top-down deal negotiated by Regan and corporate executives.

Furthermore, Regan’s deals inevitably include hidden provisions aimed at sweetening the deal for bosses – such as pre-negotiated limits on workers’ pay and benefits. When workers ultimately discover these backroom deals, they turn against the union for selling out the members.

See below for a copy of the lawsuit filed by the City of Emeryville as well as two letters recently submitted by Stanford to the City of Palo Alto.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Alliance Unions at Bargaining Table While Kaiser and Regan at Standstill

Here’s the latest on the dueling partnership unions that split over Dave Regan’s effort to seize greater control over the partnership unions’ decision-making process.

Last month, the new partnership group -- the Alliance of Health Care Unions -- began national bargaining with Kaiser Permanente. (The Alliance includes the Teamsters, Steelworkers, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, UFCW, ILWU, Operating Engineers and the KPNAA.)

So far, the Alliance has completed three rounds of negotiations with Kaiser, with two more rounds scheduled for June 25-26 and July 8-9, according to the Alliance’s website. During the first round of negotiations (May 17 and May 21-22), the Alliance negotiated and approved an “updated” LMP Agreement with Kaiser, which is posted on the Alliance’s website.

The agreement contains the new so-called “Dave Regan” provisions: (1) a rule allowing the Alliance unions to kick out a member union for “egregious non-partnering behavior upon a vote of 70%” of the partnering unions and (2) a rule barring Kaiser and the Alliance unions from pursuing, sponsoring or supporting legislation or ballot initiatives that “are specifically targeted at and the primary purpose of which is to harm another member of the Partnership.” The second provision is in response to Regan’s filing -- and then withdrawal -- of a statewide ballot initiative targeting Kaiser earlier this year.

After negotiating a LMP Agreement, the Alliance began contract negotiations with Kaiser. During two rounds of bargaining (May 22-24 and May 30-June 2), the discussions reportedly focused on economics (wages, benefits, outsourcing, job security), “Operational Effectiveness” (staffing, budgeting, backfill and attendance), and “Partnership” (partnership expectations and LMP training).

What about the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions?

The Coalition appears to be hunting for a strategy.

The Coalition was supposed to have finished national bargaining with Kaiser by this time, but those negotiations were canceled when the Coalition unions split in two over Regan’s demand for more decision-making power. (The Coalition’s “national agreement” will expire on September 30, 2018).

Kaiser says it will not conduct national bargaining with the Coalition this year, but instead will negotiate individually with the Coalition unions before each union’s local contract expires next year. Kaiser has reportedly asked the Coalition to sign a new LMP Agreement containing the same language recently adopted by the Alliance, which includes the so-called “Dave Regan” rules. Tasty hears that Regan rejected that proposal earlier this week. It’s unclear what, if anything, will happen next.

How are the Coalition and Alliance getting along?

Not well.

The Coalition seems to be seesawing between trashing the Alliance and begging them to re-join the Coalition. After initially panning the Alliance as “the little unions,” the Coalition issued a “message” to the Alliance unions in March saying:
“We hope that the unions who left last-minute will re-join the Coalition -- and join us at the table with management. We are stronger together!” 

More recently, SEIU-UHW posted the following message on its website. It accuses the Alliance unions of plotting to sell out their members and, in Trumpian fashion, offers ‘alternative facts’ about why the Alliance unions quit the Coalition:
A group of small unions representing about one-third of the Coalition decided to break away and form their own group. The leaders of the breakaway unions wanted the right to cut a cheap deal with Kaiser over the objections of the majority of unions. We refused to go along, so those small unions left the Coalition to go it on their own. Some leaders of those unions have voiced a willingness to accept an Agreement with higher healthcare co-pays and lower wage rates for certain regions.

Likewise, the Coalition’s approach towards Kaiser is all over the map.

On the one hand, Regan -- who’s the “Chairman” of the Coalition -- has called Kaiser a “dictator” that “walked away from the partnership.” Meanwhile, Walter Allen (the interim director of the Coalition) has struck a very different tone in public statements posted on the Coalition’s website:
“The unions of the Coalition are completely committed to Partnership and the great work we’ve done together, but any changes to the Partnership need to be discussed in national bargaining,” said Walter Allen, executive director of OPEIU Local 30.

It sounds like Regan and Allen need to get their talking points straight, right?

Of course, the big question is whether the Coalition unions will even be able to conduct another round of national bargaining with Kaiser. At this point, it appears that Kaiser is refusing to conduct national bargaining until the Coalition negotiates a new LMP Agreement that includes the “Dave Regan” provisions – which Regan is rejecting. This leaves any prospects of national contract talks at a standstill.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Dave Regan: "$6 Million Dollar Man"

‘Spend it like it’s burning a hole in your pocket.’

That’s apparently Dave Regan’s philosophy when it comes to ballot initiatives.

During the first 111 days of 2018, Regan spent $6 million on just one of his more than 10 ballot initiatives, according to California campaign disclosure records.

Soon, he may be spending lots more.

His initiative -- which targets kidney dialysis companies in an effort to push them into a unionization deal with SEIU-UHW -- qualified this week for California’s November ballot.

If Regan can convince the dialysis companies to cut a special deal with him, he could withdraw his ballot initiative before a June 28 deadline. If not, the initiative is headed to an expensive statewide election campaign against deep-pocketed opponents.

The dialysis industry, which is dominated by two giant for-profit companies, has already organized a coalition of nearly 100 organizations to oppose Regan’s ballot measure, according to the coalition’s website and press releases. And it has already mounted attack ads against Regan’s initiative.

How much would SEIU-UHW have to spend to win a statewide election campaign?

Observers say it would be very expensive. California has some of the most expensive media markets in the nation with top-dollar prices for TV, print and radio advertising and a massive voter population in the state of 40 million inhabitants.

How much cash does Regan have left in SEIU-UHW’s bank account?

In recent years, he’s used a strategy of boosting dues on SEIU-UHW’s members and holding down spending on representation and member support in order to assemble big cash reserves. By the end of 2017, Regan had stockpiled $63 million in cash (vs. $14 million in debt). That’s a lot of money. Remember, however, that he burned through $6 million in cash for just one of his 10+ ballot initiatives in just the first 111 days of 2018. At this point, it’s unclear how much is left.
Dave loves ballot initiatives
Why is Regan spending so much of SEIU-UHW’s budget on ballot initiatives?

Good question. During the past seven years, he spent more than $30 million of SEIU-UHW’s budget on 20+ ballot initiatives, all of which were unsuccessful in producing organizing victories. Even his infamous deal with the California Hospital Association, which grew out of a threatened ballot initiative, eventually exploded in flames and left SEIU-UHW on the losing end of costly lawsuits.

Despite these failures, Regan decided to double down on his ballot-initiative strategy in 2018. According to Politico, he has filed more ballot initiatives in 2018 “than in the past six years combined.” In fact, he’s even begun plying his ballot-initiative strategy in other states. For example, Regan introduced a copycat initiative targeting the dialysis industry in Ohio, where he needs to collect more than 300,000 valid signatures from registered voters by July 4 in order to place the issue on the November ballot, according to press accounts.

Regan appears to be locked into a high-risk game of chicken with the dialysis industry… and the filing of copycat initiatives in other states is his effort to raise the stakes.

Will Regan’s multi-million-dollar ballot-initiative gamble pay off this time?

What happens if it doesn’t… and Regan burns through $40-$60 million of SEIU-UHW’s savings without any real victory? Will the union’s members take him to the shed?

Stay tuned.