Thursday, January 31, 2019

NUHW Celebrates a Decade

This month marks ten years since the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) was founded on the heels of a disastrous trusteeship imposed by SEIU’s Purple Palace in Washington DC.

Since 2009, NUHW has grown to more than 15,000 members. It has built a democratic and member-controlled union while waging militant fights and repeated strikes against healthcare corporations like Kaiser Permanente... winning it a reputation as a "giant killer." Last year saw NUHW’s expansion to Hawaii.

Meanwhile, SEIU-UHW has pursued a very different strategy: becoming the boss’s best friend.

SEIU-UHW has given up massive concessions to California’s biggest healthcare corporations. It’s given away workers’ defined-benefit pension plans, eliminated workers’ fully employer-paid health insurance, and allowed corporations like Dignity Health to impose wage freezes on 15,000 workers.

Forget strikes, says SEIU-UHW’s Trustee/President Dave Regan. In fact, SEIU-UHW has carried out only one or two strikes during an entire decade. SEIU-UHW even teamed up with Kaiser's execs to organize against workers' strikes.

What, then, is SEIU-UHW’s strategy for winning some measure of justice from the giant corporations that dominate the US economy?

During a TV interview with Los Angeles’s KNBC TV station, Regan famously admitted that SEIU-UHW is not interested in fighting employers on behalf of workers and their patients. The era of "adversarial relationships" between workers and corporations is dead, says Regan.

Instead, SEIU-UHW pursues “collaboration” and “teamwork” with corporations... as memorialized in Regan’s backroom deals with executives that force workers into cheap, pre-negotiated labor contracts. Check out this quick excerpt from his TV interview.

At first, corporations were all too happy to accept Regan’s boot-licking approach.

Later, when Regan’s usefulness had been exhausted, the execs kicked him to the curb like a two-bit punk. Gone were the days when Diamond Dave could prance around hotel suites with pinstriped execs.

Since then, Regan -- his ego on crutches -- has latched onto ballot initiatives, rather than worker organization, as his latest lame strategy for “winning for workers.”

Congrats to NUHW for all of its accomplishments and its perseverance during a time of ascendant corporations and intense need for worker organizing!

It’s been quite a decade, with more battles ahead.

For coverage of NUHW’s 10-year anniversary, see Steve Early’s article published earlier this week, with a few excerpts pasted below. (Steve Early, “A Trusteeship Diaspora: How SEIU’s-Inflicted Loss Became Labor’s Gain,” Beyond Chron, January 29, 2019.)
[Former SEIU President Andy] Stern’s military style take-over of UHW greatly tarnished SEIU’s reputation for being “progressive.”  It generated bad press for the entire labor movement because the trusteeship lent credence to anti-union propaganda about “union bosses” running roughshod over the rank-and-file and misusing their dues money…
Post-trusteeship UHW quickly lost the respect of other California unions and their political friends in Sacramento. In recent years, the Stern-installed leadership of UHW helped fracture a multi-union bargaining coalition at Kaiser Permanente, wasted more than $30 million on failed ballot initiatives, and lost a third of its membership….
Rosselli and other UHW members succeeded in building a new statewide healthcare workers organization that is independent of any national labor union… NUHW now has a statewide membership of 15,000 in about forty bargaining units. The union is known for its militant contract campaigns and involvement in progressive causes like Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and the on-going fight for single-payer healthcare.
…full-time staffers once employed by UHW have gone to work for other unions, central labor councils, labor reform struggles, community organizations, and political campaigns across the country. This new diaspora—from a once exemplary SEIU local– is helping thousands of workers win high profile organizing campaigns and strikes, like the recent LA teachers walk-out, and rejuvenate the unions involved.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Andy Stern’s “Mini-me” Leaves SEIU Local, Publishes Lame Manifesto

David Rolf

Andy Stern’s mini-me -- David Rolf -- has termed out of his job as the president of SEIU Local 775… but not before penning a lame manifesto that once again marks SEIU’s conservative position in the US labor movement.

Instead of organizing workers and conducting strikes -- like United Teachers of Los Angeles’s 30,000 teachers -- Rolf preaches labor-management partnerships and lots of technocratic masturbation.

For those who don’t know him, Rolf is the guy who teamed up with Stern to serve as “cheerleaders” and “circus barkers” for Uber and other tech firms pushing poverty jobs on millions of US workers.

He also set up an outfit modeled after business incubators for tech start-up firms that, says Rolf, will help rebuild the US labor movement. At Rolf’s “Workers Lab,” Stanford business professors instruct “labor innovators” about how to “monetize” their unions’ members by using apps to "mine" and then sell a variety of personal data captured from workers.

Um, so that’s what the labor movement needs?

Labor Notes published a takedown of Rolf’s latest manifesto, which he entitled “A Roadmap to Rebuilding Worker Power.” Here are some excerpts from the Labor Notes piece (Chris Brooks, “Labor's Real Innovators Will Come from the Ranks, Not the Corporate World,Labor Notes, October 24, 2018.)
Outgoing SEIU Local 775 President David Rolf is the most prominent exponent of this dead-end approach. His new book proposes that unions stay relevant by pursuing nine “value propositions.”
…But Rolf has little to say about what I would consider a union’s main job—fighting the boss.
In a book ostensibly about worker power, the word “strike” appears eight times, while “partnership” appears 62.
Rolf wants to “innovate” unions into a totally different kind of organization—one that’s more of a business. “It’s time for us to accept that innovation needs to be the new religion,” he writes.
Thanks but no thanks. Give me that old-time religion.
…it wasn’t self-described “innovators” who produced the teacher uprising that’s spreading across the country today. “Red for Ed” came from teachers.
These battles were successful because they tapped into rank-and-file creativity. They’re a reminder that the best sources of innovation and power are found within our own ranks—even though too many of our leaders are always looking elsewhere.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

California Hospital Workers Try to Bolt SEIU-UHW due to Bad Contracts

Dave Regan’s relentless spending on ballot initiatives is not only producing repeated losses at the ballot box for SEIU-UHW, it’s also generating decertification efforts by the union’s own members.

Two weeks ago, workers at 158-bed USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Los Angeles filed a petition to dump SEIU-UHW and work without a union because they say SEIU-UHW has failed to win improved wages and health insurance for 230 workers there, according to NLRB records and the Glendale News-Press. (Lila Seidman, “Vote on keeping USC hospital union could come within weeks, employee says,” Glendale News-Press, January 8, 2019.)

Regan’s multi-million-dollar spending on ballot initiatives has left SEIU-UHW’s members with fewer resources for workplace organizing and representation... and weaker contracts. According to the worker who filed the petition at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a majority of employees signed the decertification petition and are backing the effort to bolt from SEIU-UHW.

 “A vote on whether or not to keep a healthcare workers’ union at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale could come as early as the end of the month,” the Glendale News-Press reported last week. 

Last October, workers at the same hospital submitted an identical request but SEIU-UHW’s attorneys blocked it, saying the request was filed two days late. SEIU-UHW has made no such claims about the current filing, although SEIU-UHW’s lawyers are filing “unfair labor practice” charges in an effort to stall the vote.

The decertification effort offers a stark counterpoint to what’s happening at USC’s other two acute-care hospitals.

More than 1,100 workers at 401-bed USC Keck Medical Center and 60-bed USC Norris Cancer Center are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). During recent years, they’ve waged a series of aggressive negotiating campaigns, including strikes and pickets, that boosted workers’ wages, health insurance, and retirement benefits.

Last spring, NUHW forced the two hospitals to in-source more than 100 subcontracted food service and housekeeping workers, leading to pay increases of up to 80%. One group of recently in-sourced workers had been members of SEIU United Service Workers West for years and were paid just above the minimum wage. After they voted to leave SEIU, NUHW successfully pressured the two hospitals to dump Sodexo, USC’s subcontractor, and to hire the workers directly.

Due to NUHW's success, hundreds more USC workers have voted to join NUHW through NLRB elections.

If workers at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital vote to decertify SEIU-UHW, it will put an even brighter spotlight on Regan’s decision to pour tens of millions of dollars of the union’s funds down the toilet in Dave's illusory quest for unionization via ballot initiative.

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Price Soars for Dave Regan’s Ballot Initiatives

Dave Regan’s famously unsuccessful “ballot initiative” strategy just got a lot more expensive in California.

If you’re a member of SEIU-UHW, heads up. Diamond Dave will now be able to waste your dues dollars much faster than before.

Regan’s unquenchable thirst for ballot-initiative failure isn’t mere speculation. 

Several months ago, Regan pledged to re-file his unsuccessful dialysis ballot measure in 2020. He made this pledge just days after voters rejected Dave’s dialysis measure by a blow-out margin: 61.5% (“No”) to 38.5% (“Yes”).

Why is the price tag jumping for California ballot initiatives?

Every four years, California readjusts the number of valid voter signatures that must be collected in order to place an initiative on the statewide ballot. Specifically, it takes 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor during the most recent election.

That threshold was re-set during last November’s gubernatorial election when large numbers of voters turned out to boot Republican congressmembers from office. The threshold jumped from 365,879 valid signatures to 623,212 valid signatures.

That’s gonna make it much more expensive to put measures on the ballot. SEIU-UHW hires companies to collect signatures from voters, typically paying them between $2 to $3 per signature. Campaigns must collect far more signatures than the threshold because a certain percentage of signatures turn out to be invalid.

So that’s why the costs associated with statewide initiatives are going to “skyrocket,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. (John Wildermuth, “Qualifying a California ballot measure to become a ‘playground of billionaires,’” San Francisco Chronicle, January 2, 2019.)

According to the newspaper: 
It already costs at least $2 million to qualify a measure for the ballot, and that’s before a single dollar is spent on a campaign to actually win the election. The new signature numbers are likely to boost that amount dramatically.

How much will the costs jump?

At least to $3.4 million, according to analysts.

So, unless Regan finally owns up to his record of uninterrupted failure, SEIU-UHW members can expect Dave to blindly pour more and more of their dues dollars into ballot initiatives… rather than using these precious resources to fund aggressive contract campaigns, organizing drives, and representational work to support the union’s members.

Friday, January 4, 2019

NUHW Hits Kaiser with Strike

The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) is taking on Kaiser Permanente again.

Not through ballot initiatives, which is Dave Regan’s preferred approach.

But through strikes… which SEIU-UHW hasn’t attempted against any healthcare company in years.

Last month, 4,000 NUHW members conducted a weeklong strike against dozens of Kaiser facilities across California. The strikers included Psychologists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Psychiatric RNs, Medical Social Workers, Addiction Medicine Specialists, Dietitians, Health Educators, and others.

It was the largest strike by mental health therapists in the nation's history, according to NUHW.

What do the strikers want? They're demanding more staff.

Kaiser’s chronic understaffing of its mental health clinics forces patients with depression, bipolar disorder, and other conditions to wait two months or more for appointments.

Strikers were joined by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy -- the author of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and a national leader of mental health reform efforts -- who flew across the US to join them on the picket line.

RNs from the California Nurses Association and members of the Stationary Engineers Local 39 also joined picket lines across the state.

According to NUHW, the strike produced more than 1,000 press stories.

And one thousand patients reported their stories of Kaiser’s delayed care -- including suicides and other tragic outcomes -- to the union’s “Kaiser Don’t Deny” website, according to NUHW.

This isn’t the first time that NUHW has taken on Kaiser.

Several years ago, NUHW hit Kaiser with a series of statewide strikes and successfully got the state to fine the giant HMO $4 million for illegally delaying their patients’ mental health appointments. NUHW documented more than a dozen suicides connected to Kaiser's delayed care.

Check out this three-minute TV news story about the strike and Kaiser’s understaffed mental health clinics.