This Labor Day, 43,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California–members of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW)–are celebrating their 65-year history of making the nation’s largest healthcare provider one of the best places to work and receive care.
“We’ve had our share of struggle over the years,” said Jolene Camp, a medical assistant at Kaiser Roseville for nearly 10 years. “But as frontline caregivers, we have a voice in how care gets delivered at Kaiser and a strong union, SEIU-UHW, that’s helped ensure we have the best pay and benefits in the healthcare industry.”
Kaiser workers are not only contributing by delivering quality healthcare, they are also a stabilizing force in the state’s economy. As the largest union at one of the state’s largest employers, Kaiser workers united in SEIU-UHW are standing up for some of the most stable jobs in California at a time when unemployment is high and secure jobs are scarce.
Backed by the 121-member SEIU-UHW negotiating team, Kaiser workers won a new two-year agreement in April 2010 that guarantees 9% wage increases, family healthcare with no cost increases and job security protections not found anywhere else in the industry.
“I love my job,” said Michelle Miller, a surgery scheduler at Kaiser Vacaville. “I’m proud of the work I do at Kaiser, and through our union we’ve been able to keep it one of the best employers around. My health insurance is important to me because I was a single mom with two babies when I was hired 15 years ago. I thank God that I still have my health insurance to cover my entire family because now I’m married and my husband lost his insurance earlier this year.”
In September, a majority of SEIU-UHW members are expected to vote to retain the union that’s represented them since the 1940s. Another union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) is seeking to represent Kaiser workers and filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board that triggers a mail ballot election. Ballots will be mailed to union members on September 13 and are due back to the NLRB on October 4.
NUHW is led by former SEIU-UHW leaders who were removed from office in January 2009 for illegally using members’ dues money. NUHW leaders were found liable by a federal jury and ordered to repay SEIU-UHW members $1.57 million in damages. NUHW filed a motion to indefinitely delay payment, claiming they do not have the resources and would face “bankruptcy” and “homelessness” if they are forced to comply with the award–but their motion was denied.
For more information and background documents on the judge’s decision to deny NUHW indefinite deferral on paying the damages they owe to SEIU-UHW members, go to http://www.seiu-uhw.org/nuhw-filing