THE BLOG

Ding, Dong: Labor Sends a Message to One of Its Biggest Corporate Collaborators

06/24/2015 10:33 am ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016

In the labor movement, there are two kinds of leaders -- those who fight big corporations, and those who collaborate with them. The poster child for the collaborators just had half his membership taken away.

David Regan, head of United Healthcare Workers West, who inked sweetheart deals with California's largest HMO, Kaiser and its hospitals, to keep quality of care problems hush-hush, and only fought for corporations' political goals, lost 70,000 of his 150,000 members recently. The report was first announced in the San Francisco Business Times.

The move means Regan no longer has the biggest health care union in California. The long term care workers UHW represents are moving to a separate union in an internal shakeup at SEIU.

It's a fitting fate for one of labor's biggest corporate sellouts.

The deal Regan cut with the California Hospital Association last summer gave UHW big corporate bucks in exchange for always siding with hospital industry and Kaiser's political agenda.

The so-called "labor management" deal is also a business model to stop the public and regulators from knowing about quality of care problems at hospitals -- one pioneered by UHW at Kaiser for years. It requires problems hospital workers witness to be aired only internally. The purported payout was a $100 million Political Action Committee for Regan as well as a leg up for UHW in organizing in hospitals over other unions, presumably more aggressive ones.

In an internal tape recording leaked to me and members of the media, following the announcement of his $100 million pact with the Hospital Association last summer, Regan told his fellow union leaders he would punish Prime Healthcare and Providence, the hospitals companies that didn't sign the pact.

Regan recently killed a deal of six California Catholic community hospitals
out of spite against Prime. Regan used his political clout to stop the Attorney General's approval of the sale despite support from the California Nurses Association and SEIU members at the facilities. He took the six Daughters of Charity hospitals as political hostages knowing that there were no better alternatives.

Since then, the hospitals have started layoffs, closed service lines and are desperately trying to find a new buyer. Bankruptcy is nearly certain, putting the pensions of 17,000 past and current workers in jeopardy, and some of the hospitals could eventually close.

Regan reportedly told people who were trying to change his mind that he didn't care if hospitals closed. It was all about payback to him.

Regan isn't gone, just emasculated. He's issued one of the more hypocritical memos ever written for people who know his history that appears to violate his own union's guidelines about speaking publicly about internal affairs. In a long, dressed-up whine about his fate, he complained about payoffs, gag clauses, and everything being for sale, including souls. These are the very strategies Regan made his bones with in the union movement. Live by the corporate rules, die by the corporate rules.

Corporate collaborators everywhere, beware.