Thursday, December 11, 2008

Boycott Prevails in Sham SEIU Vote; Lawmakers and Advocates Join Healthcare Workers in Opposing Forced Union Merger

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a statewide vote of healthcare workers conducted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), ballots are still being counted but the result is clear: healthcare workers overwhelmingly oppose the forced merger planned by national union officials, and lawmakers and healthcare advocates are joining them in protest.

Caregivers from all three affected local unions signed more than 125,000 petitions and cards opposing the forced merger and pledging to boycott the vote. SEIU officials could find less than ten percent of eligible voters willing to cast ballots -- fewer than 28,000 of more than 309,000 of eligible voters -- despite changing election rules more than halfway through the three-week mail-ballot election in order to improve turnout, and despite reports to UHW election observers that SEIU staff have encouraged members of other local unions to request duplicate ballots even if they already voted. The validity of almost a third of the ballots received has been challenged by the SEIU-appointed election officer.

"We need a union that truly represents us and gives us a voice to advocate for our patients," said Mell Garcia, a medical assistant at Kaiser Permanente-Hayward and an elected rank-and-file vice president of United Healthcare Workers (UHW). "We boycotted the election because both options on the ballot would mean the end of healthcare unions that are accountable to healthcare workers. While SEIU President Andy Stern advocates a free choice for workers across the country to become union members, he's denying a free choice to SEIU members in California."

The forced merger would result in the new union's leaders being appointed by SEIU President Andy Stern, rather than elected by healthcare workers in California. Healthcare advocates say this loss of accountability could put patients and seniors at risk.

"National SEIU officials have pursued a strategy of backroom deals with nursing home operators that limit the ability of caregivers to speak out about dangerous conditions," said Pat McGinnis, director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. "Local union members in UHW have resisted that strategy and pushed for contracts that give caregivers a voice to advocate for their residents. Losing that voice would be very harmful."

California lawmakers are concerned SEIU officials could move forward with the merger over the objections of workers. Elected leaders held press conferences in three regions yesterday to announce their opposition to the forced merger.

"This process denied healthcare workers a fair choice to secure the representation that would best meet their needs and those of the people they serve," said Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson. "SEIU's hostile takeover of the United Healthcare Workers would impede caregivers' efforts to advocate for hospital patients, nursing home residents and homecare consumers. That's why more than 240 elected officials and community leaders have called for a peaceful resolution to this dispute and urged that it be settled through mediation and not by force."

With more than 150,000 members, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West is the fastest-growing healthcare union in the United States. We represent healthcare workers in all job classifications and all healthcare settings, including hospitals, homecare, nursing homes and clinics. Our mission is to achieve high-quality healthcare for all.

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