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.