08/06/2010 10:39 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Entire SEIU steward council steps down in order to choose NUHW

This week, 48 SEIU-UHW stewards at Kaiser Santa Rosa Medical Center sounded the first note of our historic union election campaign at Kaiser Permanente by stepping down from their positions with SEIU in order to support the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

Their message was clear. "We are confident that the best future for our co-workers is with NUHW and not SEIU-UHW," the 48 Kaiser employees wrote in a letter to their colleagues. "We look forward to voting for NUHW, so we can be part of a union where we make the decisions about our priorities for bargaining and who represents us on the job and who leads our union."

At a powerful rally in front of their hospital, Kaiser workers took off their purple SEIU lanyards and replaced them with red ones to show support for our union.

When these workers spoke out, they spoke for Kaiser workers across California. We won the right to our election because thousands of us stood up for our right to choose our union.

Just one week ago, we achieved a milestone in our long journey to reclaim our union at Kaiser Permanente. The National Labor Relations Board granted Kaiser workers' demand for a federally-supervised election. 43,500 of us at Kaiser can now express our right to vote to leave SEIU-UHW and to join a union accountable to us, NUHW.

When we vote to join NUHW beginning on September 13 we will be making history. Our election at Kaiser will be the largest private-sector union election in the United States since 1941.

As labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta pointed out on Huffington Post this Tuesday, we have endured a long season of harassment and intimidation as healthcare workers under SEIU. Sadly, the unelected leadership of the local union that currently represents us at Kaiser Permanente, SEIU-UHW, does not believe in workers speaking freely and deciding for ourselves about which union we want to represent us. As Ms. Huerta pointed out, too often those of us supporting NUHW have been intimidated and shouted down.

Our election gives all of us the power to change that. Our mail ballot vote will not be subject to SEIU's intimidation and Kaiser Permanente will be required by law to respect our choice. With our election we can reclaim the powerful union that we built for ourselves at Kaiser.

Our task today as Kaiser healthcare workers is to reach out to our co-workers and to overcome the intimidation and division that SEIU has brought to our workplace. The stewards' bold action in Santa Rosa yesterday is a hopeful example to all of us and a reminder that each of us must do our part to win this election and to join NUHW. Together, we have the power to bring a new day for healthcare workers at Kaiser.