For immediate release: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Contact: Steve Trossman, (213) 300-1882
Sean Wherley, (323) 893-6831
OAKLAND, CA – Members of the SEIU–United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics across California have voted overwhelmingly to remain in their union, dealing a stinging defeat to both the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the California Nurses Association (CNA), which teamed up in a failed effort to win over Kaiser workers. It was the largest private sector union election in the United States since 1941 at the Ford Motor Company.
The results – 18,844 (58.4%) for SEIU-UHW, 13,101 (40.6%) for NUHW, and 334 (1%) for no union – were tabulated Thursday, May 2 by the National Labor Relations Board after a two-day count of mail-in ballots. Today’s result was virtually the same as the previous Kaiser election in 2010.
“There was no way NUHW or CNA could convince us to give up our great wages, health coverage, pension and job security, especially since NUHW has been unable to bargain a contract at Kaiser for more than three years,” said Cleto Delizo, a lead driver at Kaiser Sacramento. “This is now settled, once and for all, and we are ready to give all of our attention to doing our jobs providing the best possible care to our patients.”
“It’s really simple – the vast majority of us love our union and our contract, and that’s why the vote was so lopsided,” said Lucy Rojas, a Receptionist at Kaiser Woodland Hills. “Now that the election is over, it’s time for all of us – no matter which side we supported – to put aside our differences for the good of our patients.”
Following years of failed bargaining to secure contracts at Kaiser and other hospitals, the election results are a serious blow to NUHW, which is now nearly $10 million in debt.
CNA and NUHW joined forces in December 2012, and many CNA members were angered that they were not permitted to vote on the merger. Now, it is estimated that CNA spent up to $10 million on the Kaiser election, a fact CNA Executive Director Rose Ann Demoro and other CNA officials have attempted to keep hidden from their membership. Just last week, CNA asked an administrative law judge for a formal gag order after the millions it has spent on NUHW was revealed by a CNA official in an NLRB hearing.
SEIU-UHW has represented caregivers at Kaiser Permanente in California for nearly 70 years. NUHW-CNA is led by former SEIU-UHW officials who were removed from office in January 2009 for misusing members’ dues money and violating members’ democratic rights. In 2010 a federal court jury found that NUHW, its President Sal Rosselli and 15 others improperly used the resources of SEIU-UHW to start their own union, and were ordered to pay $1.55 million in damages to SEIU-UHW.
Across the state, SEIU-UHW members are calling on NUHW to respect Kaiser workers’ clear democratic decision and not file frivolous objections to the election. NUHW has attempted to supplant SEIU-UHW in dozens of elections over the past four years, and has lost nearly 97% of the time, prompting many people in labor to call on them to stop wasting resources trying to organize people who are already in unions.
“At a time when unionization is down to 7 percent in the private sector, it’s time for people like the leaders of NUHW and CNA, who call themselves ‘progressives,’ to focus on organizing non-union workers instead of attacking people who already are in a union and have the best contract in the country,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW.
Members voted to stay in SEIU-UHW to protect their three-year agreement, negotiated in 2012, that guarantees 12% wage increases, employer-paid family healthcare with no cost increases, job security protections not found anywhere else in the industry, full pension, and retiree health insurance. It was negotiated by members who were elected to a 119-person SEIU-UHW bargaining committee supported by thousands of union members.
The agreement went into effect October 1, 2012. If NUHW-CNA had won this election, the contract would have had to be renegotiated, and the gains Kaiser workers have achieved under SEIU-UHW would have been in jeopardy.
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SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (SEIU-UHW) is the largest healthcare union in the western U.S. with more than 150,000 members. SEIU-UHW is part of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).