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Erica Boddie

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Majority of Kaiser Workers Pledge to Support SEIU-UHW in Next Week's Election

Posted: 09/09/10 07:01 PM ET

Next week, a majority of 43,000 Kaiser healthcare workers across California will begin voting in a mail ballot election to affirm our union, Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW)--the union that Kaiser workers have built over the last 65 years.

The majority of those 43,000 Kaiser employees feel secure with our union, SEIU-UHW, and are completely clear about who we are, where we come from, and where we aim to go despite deception stirred up by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, the tiny startup operated by former SEIU-UHW leaders who were ousted for misusing members' dues money. A majority of SEIU-UHW members have pledged to vote SEIU-UHW when mail ballots from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) begin arriving in their mailboxes next week. The reasons why couldn't be more clear.

Plain and simple, Kaiser workers are not willing to risk the new National Agreement we fought to win this spring and ratified with a record-setting majority membership vote in June. Our contract guarantees a 9% wage increase over the next three years, fully paid family healthcare, and the best job protection in the industry--all of this negotiated in the middle of the economic crisis. The agreement was negotiated by our rank-and-file bargaining committee -- 121 members who were elected by their co-workers - the largest member bargaining committee in Kaiser--and SEIU-UHW's--history.

If Kaiser workers were represented by NUHW, we'd have to forfeit all of these guarantees and go back to the bargaining table where we would surely be facing takeaways. Earlier this year, Kaiser forced 30,000 managers and non-union employees to pay huge healthcare cost increases, but after a months-long campaign, including protests in front of Kaiser hospitals across California, SEIU-UHW stopped those takeaways cold. Can you think of any other situation where frontline workers have better health benefits than their supervisors and managers? All of those guarantees would be wiped away if we were to bring in NUHW, and we would face those takeaways all over again.

Most troubling of all is NUHW's existing track record inside Kaiser. A small group of RNs and healthcare professionals in Southern California voted in January to leave SEIU-UHW for NUHW. Their losses have been stunning. These workers have lost the 2% contractual raise SEIU-UHW members received in April and have to go to through a potentially years-long legal process to try and collect it. Those same members are reporting that Kaiser has told them they also won't receive the October 3% raises SEIU-UHW members will get under our new contract. So in another month, those NUHW Kaiser workers will be 5% behind SEIU-UHW members, which is why more and more of these members are regretting their decision to join NUHW.

I've been a member of SEIU-UHW for more than 26 years. I was an original member of SEIU Local 250 and I've known former SEIU-UHW President Sal Rosselli and the other leaders of NUHW for a long time. I believe that Rosselli, who now heads NUHW, is continuing his personal quest to build power, money and control over everyday, hardworking union members by preaching false "union democracy" as camouflage for the harmful actions he has set in motion against the members of SEIU-UHW. Earlier this year I witnessed as it was exposed in Federal Court in San Francisco the desperate operation planned and led by Rosselli and company to purposely defy our union's constitution so that they could use SEIU-UHW members' dues to start their own union.

Now, NUHW acknowledges facing bankruptcy as they have been ordered by a Federal Court to pay back $1.57 million of what they illegally took from SEIU-UHW members. But NUHW is trying to back out of their obligation to repay us. They filed a motion in Federal Court asking to defer payment, stating that they do not have the resources and could face bankruptcy. The judge said no, and now NUHW has to pay.

But here's where it gets even more unbelievable. NUHW leaders want us to vote to join their union that they started with money they illegally took from us. If we were foolish enough to do that, they would collect more dues money from us so that they could pay off a federal judgment against them for misusing our dues to begin with!

With all of this going on, I'm standing with my co-workers to just say "no" to NUHW. It's clear that NUHW needs us way more than we need them.

SEIU-UHW has represented healthcare workers at Kaiser for more than 65 years and that means something to us. SEIU-UHW has been here long before Sal Rosselli ever came along and will be here long after. Our union does not belong to him. It belongs to us, the members who've built it and make it strong. Let me make it clear, we're sticking with our union, SEIU-UHW.