OAKLAND, CA – Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) members won their eighth straight election over the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) today when ballots were counted at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose. The original election was held June 8-9 but NUHW filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) just prior to the election, delaying the vote count until October 19. The election results are: SEIU-UHW, 238; NUHW, 99; no union, 3.
“NUHW filed trumped up charges to keep our votes from being counted, just like they do every time they know they’re going to lose an election,” said Natalie Garza, an emergency room technician at the hospital. “Finally, the results are in and everyone can see what we’ve always known: That O’Connor Hospital workers are united in our union, SEIU-UHW.”
NUHW officials have a history of filing unfair labor practice charges or objections with the NLRB when they lose elections in an effort to save face and delay the vote count and/or final certification of the results, but they have never successfully overturned an election with SEIU-UHW. On October 14, when NUHW filed objections to the election at Kaiser where SEIU-UHW members voted resoundingly to keep their union of 65 years, SEIU-UHW members called the objections filed by NUHW “a last desperate act by a failing organization to undermine the will of a democratic majority of workers.”
The O’Connor Hospital election makes it the eighth straight election win for SEIU-UHW members over NUHW in less than two weeks:
- On October 13, ballots from an April election were counted for more than 200 workers at four Bay Area nursing homes owned by Pradap Poddotori. Workers voted to retain SEIU-UHW as their union.
- Also on October 13, SEIU-UHW members at Chinese Hospital and Enloe Medical Center won their elections over NUHW when NUHW withdrew its petitions at these facilities.
- On October 7, the NLRB announced the results of the massive mail ballot election for 43,500 Kaiser Permanente workers, where 18,290 (61%) voted for SEIU-UHW while only 11,364 (37.8%) voted for NUHW, with 365 (1.2%) voting no union.
With the election at Kaiser over and ballots counted at O’Connor, more than 124,000 of SEIU-UHW’s 150,000 members have now chosen which of the two unions to join, and more than 120,000 – 97% – will have decided to stay in SEIU-UHW. Of the 4,300 SEIU-UHW members who went to NUHW, not a single one has a union contract today because NUHW has not successfully negotiated any contracts in its 21 months of existence.
“I’m so happy that our votes have finally been counted and we can move forward on enforcing our contract. NUHW offered us nothing – they haven’t negotiated a single contract or won anything for workers,” said Gregg Woods, an environmental services staffer at O’Connor.
NUHW is led by former SEIU-UHW leaders who were removed from office in January 2009 for misusing millions of members’ dues money. Having lost the election at Kaiser and so many other facilities recently, the situation facing NUHW points to an organization in trouble:
- NUHW represents only about 5,000 workers (after predicting in early 2009 that they would quickly represent 100,000 workers). Only a tiny number of the workers it represents pay dues because the union has not successfully negotiated a single contract for any of the workers in their union.
- NUHW reportedly is heavily in debt and NUHW and its leaders still owe SEIU-UHW $1.57 million in damages from a federal jury award in April for misusing members’ dues.
- In lead-up to the Kaiser election, SEIU-UHW members had rejected NUHW at nearly 50 other hospitals, nursing homes, and in counties that employ SEIU-UHW members as home care providers. NUHW’s rejection by workers at Kaiser – the largest and most prestigious healthcare system in the state – will have a major influence on any future elections. It will undermine NUHW’s ability to appeal to other healthcare workers who see Kaiser as the flagship for healthcare workers in California.
In addition, prior to the Kaiser election, many union experts and labor professors were questioning why a group like NUHW would spend resources and cause SEIU to spend resources trying to decertify workers who already have a strong union. Given the state of the labor movement, down to just 7% of private sector workers, NUHW’s focus on trying to decertify unionized workers does nothing to build the bigger and stronger labor movement workers need to improve their lives, they say.