We have for some time been following the internal fight between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Healthcare Workers (UHW) of California. After merging with the UHW the SEIU claimed that the UHW was officered by corrupt officials and claimed that the only way to cleanup the union was to put the union into trusteeship, conduct an investigation, and then rearrange the union by completely taking over the union and placing it directly under SEIU control.
The members of the UHW, of course, resented an outside group coming in and strong arming their elected leaders. Worse, they claimed that the “trustees” placed over them were hand-picked by DEIU President Andy Stern and would sever his interests, not theirs.
In any case, the SEIU won with its hostile take over of the UHW. However, that is not the end of the tale. Many members of the UHW quit the SEIU/UHW and started a new union. And the charges of the heavy handed tactics of the SEIU main office in Washington D.C. are still flying.
Of course, the reason the internal battle interests us is not because we support the old UHW or the new NUHW, but that this battle shows the ruthlessness to which the SEIU is prone. The SEIU is one of the most powerful unions in the country and if they are willing to do this to their own people, what are they going to do with the rest of us.
Anyway, here is one more shot in that war issued as a press release of the new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers:
SEIU lies, bribes, and steals to claim razor-thin advantage in illegitimate Fresno County election
Sat, 20 Jun 2009 03:04:11 GMT
National Union of Healthcare Workers
Homecare providers and supporters report vandalism, threats of violence, illegal scare tactics, ballot manipulation, theft, and other violations of labor law
Fresno, Calif.â€”Fresno County homecare providers reported scores of incidents of voter intimidation, illegal threats, and ballot manipulation by SEIU staff in an election for workers to quit the scandal-plagued union and join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).
SEIU spent an estimated $10 million on attack mailings, robo-calls, TV and radio ads, and 1,000 paid staff flown in from across the country, but failed to win enough support from workers to win the election without breaking the law. Despite SEIU’s illegal tactics, just 117 votes could swing the outcome of the election. Based on SEIUâ€™s illegal conduct and flawed decisions by the County election officer, healthcare workers in NUHW will file a legal challenge to the election and not be party to certification of the results.
“SEIU has resorted to behavior worse than weâ€™ve seen from the worst anti-union bosses,” said Sal Rosselli, Interim President of NUHW. “They will say or do anything to deny workers a free choice. But healthcare workers have proven today that their movement to take back their union is thriving and has the strength to win.â€
According to reports from homecare providers and volunteer supporters:
* Thousands of providers were directly threatened that they could lose their wages and health insurance if they vote for NUHW. It is illegal for an employer to change workers’ pay or benefits when workers change their union, and illegal to threaten that pay or benefits will change as a result of workers’ vote.
* SEIU organizers used threats of physical violence, profanity, and sexually threatening gestures to intimidate NUHW supporters as they walked door to door.
* SEIU organizers demanded that providers surrender their ballots to the organizers, and many providers who supported NUHW reported that their ballots were missing from their mailboxes.
* SEIU organizers told NUHW supporters to mark the top box to vote NUHW, when it was actually the box to vote for SEIU. At least one provider who needed help reading her ballot was visited by an SEIU organizer who pretended to be a NUHW volunteer, and drove her to the post office to mail a ballot she had mistakenly marked for SEIU.
* At least two workers’ doors were vandalized or defaced, and many had signs stolen which they had placed on their homes to show their support for NUHW.
* Providers were offered bribes of valuable gifts and told they could have high-paying jobs with the union if they voted for SEIU.
Violence and dirty tricks were encouraged from the outset of the election by SEIU-UHW Trustee Dave Regan, who was appointed to his position by SEIU President Andy Stern. At a staff meeting the day before the election, Regan urged hundreds of SEIU staff to follow “old-fashioned rules” and “administer an old-school ass-whipping” to NUHW supporters:
“I think when I look around the room, the group that comes to Fresno with the workboots, this is the group who all understand old-fashioned rules, this is the group that you might call ‘old-school.’ And I know that I have talked to a lot of people in this room and people know what that means when we talk about ‘old school.’ â€¦What we gotta do here, my old-school friends, is we have to administer an old-school ass-whipping over the next two weeks. I know everybody knows what that means.” (YouTube: http://is.gd/15PAo)
Regan has a history of using violence in conflicts with other unions. Last April, Regan led 300 SEIU staff in storming a peaceful union conference in Michigan, injuring several workers and prompting AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to condemn the assault. “There is no justificationâ€”noneâ€”for the violent attack orchestrated by SEIU at the Labor Notes conference,â€ Sweeney said.
Regan was dispatched to Fresno to try to stop a movement of nearly 100,000 SEIU members in California who are dumping the scandal-plagued union to join NUHW instead.
Healthcare workers founded NUHW in January, after Washington, D.C. SEIU officials seized California’s healthcare union, SEIU-UHW, in a hostile takeover. Before the takeover, the healthcare workers elected to lead SEIU-UHW had been reformers within SEIU, exposing corruption and undemocratic practices. In retaliation, SEIU President Andy Stern removed SEIU-UHW’s elected rank-and-file leaders and replaced them with Regan and other union staff loyal to the Washington office.
Since SEIU’s takeover, workers at more than 360 healthcare facilities including Kaiser Permanente have petitioned for elections to quit the SEIU-controlled union and join NUHW instead. This Fresno County election was scheduled after 2,500 Fresno homecare providers filed a petition with the county to allow them to join NUHW.
The narrow margin is an embarrassing blow to SEIU, which spent an estimated $3,000 for every vote they claimed, outspending NUHW 50-to-1. At the beginning of the election, Regan announced that â€œthis is not an election that we want to win 52 to 48. This is not an election that we want to win by a few hundred votesâ€¦ We want them to believe when we are done here that it is hopelessâ€¦ so they donâ€™t even think they can take this mess outside of Fresno and bring it anywhere else.â€
Instead, 35,000 homecare providers in Sacramento and San Francisco counties are already looking forward to their own elections to join NUHW. Under state and county labor laws, they will be able to petition for elections in September. The counties are both NUHW strongholds, where NUHW has protected homecare wages and benefits against the governor’s budget cuts in recent weeks while SEIU squandered workers’ dues fighting caregivers in Fresno.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. Nearly 100,000 workers in hospitals, Kaiser Permanente facilities, homecare, and nursing homes have petitioned to join NUHW since January, with 40,000 more expected to petition in the next few months.
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