OAKLAND – Following its devastating loss in the election for 43,600 service and technical workers at Kaiser Permanente, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) faces internal turmoil, millions of dollars of debt, and defections of staff, members, and supporters that now raise questions about the union’s future viability.
NUHW was formed by a group of union officials who were removed from their posts in the Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) for misusing millions in members’ dues.
Twenty-one months after it was formed…
NUHW faces member defections and possible decertification by two units of Kaiser professionals who voted to join NUHW earlier this year:
- Molly Miller, president of the NUHW psychologist and social worker chapter at Kaiser in Southern California, announced her resignation October 21 at a meeting with members, saying she is frustrated with NUHW President Sal Rosselli and other NUHW officials. She said the loss of the large unit at Kaiser was a major setback and predicted that if NUHW does not get a contract by February her group would decertify (leave) NUHW.
- Open warfare has emerged between union members in the RN unit in Southern California and Rosselli and other NUHW officials. Members had to hire an attorney to force Rosselli and NUHW to live up to promises they made prior to the nurses voting for NUHW [http://www.seiu-uhw.org/hirelawyer], and recently NUHW tried and failed to oust the RN unit’s president, Leila Valdivia [http://www.seiu-uhw.org/recall], who is now vowing to decertify NUHW in February, the earliest the law allows them to vote out NUHW.
- In a federal court filing [http://www.seiu-uhw.org/regret], the National Labor Relations Board, as part of its claim that Kaiser committed Unfair Labor Practices, laid out these problems and went on to write:
“Unit employees have expressed their regret in selecting the NUHW and some have embarked on a campaign to oust the Union. The number of employees who are voluntarily paying union dues has decreased significantly.”
NUHW’s top staff person in Southern California has now left and several of their top Northern California staff are actively and openly seeking jobs. Barbara Lewis, who directed NUHW’s work in hospitals in the Los Angeles area, has left to take a job with the United Nurses Association of California (UNAC). In the north, several top NUHW officials are openly sending resumes to other unions, and a number of lower-level staff have sought to return to staff jobs at SEIU-UHW.
NUHW is millions of dollars in debt and will be forced to use members’ dues to pay it off. At minimum, the union and its top staff owe more than $2 million to the California Nurses Association and a $1.57 million federal court judgment to SEIU-UHW. In an Oct. 8 article in the legal publication The Daily Journal, NUHW’s attorney, Dan Siegel of San Francisco, acknowledged the debt and said current and future members of NUHW would have to pay it off:
If NUHW does not win the Kaiser unit in the election, it will repay loans “over time, from employees it currently represents and those it will represent in the future,” Siegel said.
- NUHW was fined $2,500 and sharply rebuked by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup Oct. 22 for hiding key union financial records and for defying a court order to provide sworn testimony as to the location of $265,000 in unaccounted-for NUHW funds. NUHW’s lawyer Dan Siegel stated in court that the judgment put NUHW in such financial distress that the union engaged in what Siegel admitted was a “deliberate scheme” to pull all of NUHW’s funds out of its bank accounts and turn the funds over to Siegel’s law firm. One of Siegel’s law partners then began signing NUHW’s checks and controlling its finances in place of NUHW’s appointed interim President Sal Rosselli or other NUHW officers.
- NUHW has now lost more than 50 elections this year, and more than 120,000 of the 125,000 SEIU-UHW members (96%) it has attempted to win over have rejected them.
- NUHW has still not been able to negotiate a single contract for any of the roughly 5,000 members it represents, and it faces face concessions in mostly dormant negotiations with Kaiser.
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).