SEIU Watch

by | Aug 12, 2010 | Labor Relations Ink

As SEIU’s momentous elections at Kaiser health facilities in California loom closer, the embattled union can breath a bit easier having reached a “profitable” settlement with UNITE HERE. Cash-strapped SEIU ended up with the grand prize, Amalgamated Bank of New York. According to the Pittsburg Tribune-Review,

“The current fight was over the assets (of the bank). It’s very likely there was a quid pro quo” to reaching a settlement — the bank in exchange for members, said John Russo, co-director of Youngstown State University’s Center for Working Class Studies. “The bank was the big prize all along. The SEIU was financially strapped, spending tens of millions on fighting. Most of the members are going to stick with Unite Here,” said James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics for The Heritage Foundation, a think tank in Washington.

Further terms of the agreement return an estimated $75 million dollars stolen from UNITE HERE by Bruce Raynor, and gives UNITE HERE its office building in New York City. It also ends raiding by SEIU on traditional UNITE HERE jurisdictions of hotel, gaming and food service employees. The agreement does bar UNITE HERE from aiding NUHW in the battle for Kaiser Permanente employees in California, which may be one of the reasons for the timely settlement. While the election for Kaiser employees has been set for September, employees at another large medical chain in California, Catholic Healthcare West, have begun circulating petitions to replace SEIU with NUHW. In typical SEIU storm-trooper fashion, all of the SEIU shop stewards at one hospital were fired for failing to sign a loyalty oath. Here is an email from one of them:

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2010 Subject: Saint Francis Memorial Hospital I was a shop steward for the past 6 years at SFMH and you may have heard the entire steward council was fired yesterday by Chava Bustamante. The way we managed not to be canned during the trusteeship is that with each union rep (we are now on our 5th since January 2009, Ruben Garcia) we stood united saying we are not here to talk “politics”, but rather stay focused on worksite issues. And we have managed to do some really good work – we recently got our PCC [Patient Care Committee] meeting again; it had not met for about 15 months since the trusteeship was imposed. Yesterday, Chava demanded we sign some kind of loyalty pledge to SEIU and one by one we each expressed our own objections. I said I value democratic values of free choice, etc. I just spoke with someone in the [NUHW’s] Emeryville office who told me the circulation of petitions in CHW hospitals began yesterday. Thank God! I have been working at SFMH since the 1970s and have had many unusual experiences in the workplace, but getting fired by my own union takes the cake.

The Kaiser battle is heating up. In the latest skirmish, 48 SEIU stewards at Kaiser Santa Rosa Medical Center resigned in mass as stewards so that they could support NUHW in the upcoming election. Part of the letter the stewards wrote to their co-workers stated,

Since the SEIU International placed our local (SEIU-UHW) into trusteeship last January, we have watched as the union we helped to build was transformed into an organization more concerned with consolidating money and power than bargaining good contracts and ensuring that members control their union.

Labor legend Dolores Huerta has weighed in on the campaign, writing an open letter to SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, asking her to stop the “coordinated effort by SEIU leaders in California to deny thousands of healthcare workers their federally-protected right to organize with the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).” Huerta accuses SEIU of using thuggish tactics in its Kaiser campaign. It is amazing that while under such pressure, SEIU still spends like a drunken sailor in the political arena. Setting a new record for local politics, the union threw $500,000 in a primary for a county supervisor in Fresno County, California, and will most likely spend at least as much again in the November election. Sadly, what is at stake is a move by the county to save $5 million a year. A win by the SEIU stooge will erase any chance of that measure passing. Finally, in this last SEIU tidbit, FBI agents have come to the aid of SEIU in an attempt in Illinois to organize lemonade stands (yes – this is satire, but it is a fun read!)


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