All posts by Paul Delehanty

NUHW: Kaiser Election live blog

Today marks the ballot count for elections held among three Southern California Kaiser chapters representing 2,300  healthcare workers.

The the three chapters are:

-Kaiser Sunset/LAMC RNs

-Southern California Kaiser Psychsocial Professionals

-Southern California Kaiser Healthcare Professionals

The counting should get underway soon, so here we go!

All parties have arrived at the Los Angeles Headquarters of the NLRB at 888 Figueroa Street and NUHW is represented with a strong showing of supporters who’ve gathered in anticipation of the ballot count.

We’ll have more updates as I get them.  In the meantime, if you haven’t read Randy Shaw’s excellent article on this election, you should.

And of course, visit NUHW Solidarity on Facebook to catch the latest from NUHW activists.

Updated 9:30am: The ballots are being separated into three separate counts in three separate conference rooms at the NLRB.  That means the count process will  happen simultaneously for all three chapters. Things should get going soon.

Update 9:45am:  The box containing RN ballots being opened now.  It was signed by dozens of nurses when it was sealed on Jan. 7th.

Update 10:00am:  The Healthcare Professionals ballot count room is now beginning process as well.

Update 10:15am: Word is: all three ballot counts are close to being underway.  NUHW supporters awaiting word are hopeful and quiet.

Update 10:30am:  RN counting underway!

Update 10:40am:  Lots of people wearing RED and NUHW buttons at the NLRB today.  One person on the ground reports: “What’s amazing about the crowd is there are NUHW activists from every corner of Southern California, Kaiser and Non-Kaiser alike.”

Update 10:50am: The Healthcare Professionals ballot count is now underway. The RN ballot count is in full swing as well.

Update 11:00am:  Healthcare Professionals still counting. RN counting is well along.

Update 11:15am:Official report from RN ballot count: Kaiser Sunset RNs vote to join NUHW!  Final Count: 746 NUHW, 36 SEIU 3 Neither

Update 11:20am:  Kaiser Sunset/LAMC RNs vote to join NUHW!!!

Update 11:30 am: FINAL Healthcare Professionals ballot count 189 NUHW, 29 SEIU, 13 Neither.

Update 11:35am: Kaiser SoCal Healthcare Professionals vote to join NUHW!!  

Report from the ground is that workers supporting NUHW are happy and celebrating.

Kaiser Sunset RN Victory-NUHW!!

Update 12:00 Noon:  Kaiser Psychsocial Professionals ballot count is underway. No word yet on when we will hear the final result.

Update 12:30pm: while we are waiting, and it could be several hours (but maybe not), for the Psychsocial results here’s a link to an article on this election from In These Times.

Update 1pm: Word is that the intitial process is complete and they may begin counting Kaiser Psychsocial chapter ballots soon. It is the largest chapter of the three, with 1058 members who work at 89 different facilities and clinics across Southern California. We will keep you up to date.

Update 2:30pm: Labor Notes covers NUHW victories.  And we’re still waiting on news from the Psychsocial Chapter ballot count.

Update 2:45pm:  And…the Pyschsocial Chapter ballot count is beginning.

Update 3:15: Hundreds of ballots in the 1050 member unit have been counted. We’re getting close here.  Remember, SEIU conceded defeat in all three elections before the first ballot was counted for this chapter.

Update 3:45 PM: NUHW is buzzing with excitement in expectation of three decisive victories.  Here in the North the office is beginning to stream with visitors.

Update 4:00 PM: It’s OFFICIAL.  NUHW Wins: SoCal Kaiser Psychsocial chapter joins NUHW!

Final count: 717 NUHW, 192 SEIU, 7 Neither


{Paul Delehanty works for NUHW, a vibrant & democratic movement of healthcare workers, dedicated to dignity, justice, and healthcare for all. Follow us on Twitter and join us at Facebook.}

Workers vote to join NUHW in Santa Rosa

Workers at Santa Rosa Memorial hospital voted to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) last Friday after a six-year effort to form a union at their hospital.

The ballot count, in an election where 50%+1 of the votes were needed to win outright was:

283 NUHW

263 No Union


As Randy Shaw wrote this morning:

NUHW has now won organized labor’s biggest hospital election victory of 2009, overcoming a joint “No Union” campaign mounted by management and SEIU.

a six-year campaign to form a union results in a vote for NUHW

Nancy Timberlake, a Telemetry Technician at Memorial, was overjoyed:

We are all so excited to finally have a voice to make our hospital a better place to work and better for our community. We stuck together for six years and we finally did it. I’m so relieved and so happy that we won.

-Nancy Timberlake, Telemetry Technician, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital

As Randy Shaw noted in Beyond Chron, it was the commitment of workers that won this election:

NUHW out-organized, out-strategized, and out-worked SEIU. But it became abundantly clear as I watched Election Day events that the main reason for NUHW’s success was this: pro-NUHW workers and staff wanted it more. SEIU gave no impression it ever cared about SRMH workers, using them as mere cannon fodder in its larger war against NUHW. [snip]

Anyone talking to Gabby Martinez, a NUHW supporter at St. Joseph’s Mission Hospital in Orange County who spent the last two weeks on the campaign, soon realizes that this fight in Santa Rosa was not about money. Nor was it about power or ego. Rather, it was about workers passionate for respect, dignity and fairness in the workplace. That’s why SEIU’s relentless attacks on NUHW leader Sal Rosselli, and his allegedly “corrupt” allies, fell flat. SEIU never focused on what workers cared about, while NUHW spent all of its time focusing on how a union could help workers lives.


SEIU’s expensive campaign yields 13 votes and a strong reaction

SEIU spared no expense in a campaign that won only 13 votes for SEIU-UHW but which undoubtedly boosted the no-union vote total through SEIU’s relentless attacks on NUHW in negative mailers and home visits. Workers reacted strongly to SEIU’s expensive and negative campaign against NUHW:

“We’re sorry that SEIU spent so much on a campaign where they weren’t invited. I feel sorry for all the members who put out all that money for SEIU’s campaign.”

-Sherrie Dickey, Clinical Lab Assistant, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital

Knowing how little support they had, SEIU even sent hundreds of paid staff to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital to picket the hospital in what was a clear anti-NUHW protest. Here was Memorial caregivers’ response:

Shaw calls the vote results a “disaster” for SEIU:

After a relentless campaign attacking NUHW, its staff, and its very right to call itself a union, SEIU lost 283-13 among workers desiring a union. It’s going to take a heckuva spinmeister for SEIU to explain to workers in other hospitals why they should trust SEIU over NUHW when those at SRMH clearly did not.


Community and Social Justice solidarity

The six-year Santa Rosa Memorial organizing campaign was marked by the involvement of local labor, political, clergy and social justice allies. Scholars, caregivers and leaders in the Santa Rosa faith and political communities all stood up to demand a fair election. NUHW’s social justice support even included a visit from UFW co-founder, Dolores Huerta: “Huerta visited workers on the first evening of voting, and then returned to the hospital at 6:00am the next day to urge the morning shift to back NUHW.”

Of course, it was the steady effort of the workers themselves that won this victory. Knowing it was a close election, every vote and every last effort counted towards securing the outcome.


You can support a democratic member-led union of healthcare workers by joining our Facebook Solidarity Group and following NUHW on Twitter.

{Paul Delehanty is an employee of NUHW, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, a vibrant and democratic movement of healthcare workers, dedicated to dignity, justice, and healthcare for all.}

NUHW in Santa Rosa: a David versus two Goliaths

or six years caregivers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital have worked to form a union. After petitioning for an election this spring and waiting months for the NLRB to clear SEIU’s blocking charges, Memorial workers will have the chance to form their union with NUHW this Thursday and Friday.

The election at Santa Rosa has been an uphill battle featuring a David, the workers at Memorial, versus two Goliaths: St. Joseph Health System and an anti-NUHW campaign by SEIU…

a six-year campaign to secure a fair election

While union organizing campaigns are always difficult, what sets the Memorial campaign apart is that with the help of strong community support, Memorial workers had won an agreement to negotiate ground rules for a fair election from St. Joseph Health System. However, just as they secured a date for their election, caregivers watched that hard-won agreement unravel as SEIU, the third choice on the ballot, refused to agree to fair election terms. SEIU’s refusal to negotiate has meant that management has been free to run an anti-union campaign.

Fair election agreements, as outlined in this document from US Catholic Bishops, Respecting the Just Rights of Workers, specify that union elections be conducted with:

• Respect

• Equal Access to Information

• Truthful and Balanced Communications

• Pressure-Free Environment (for example, no 1-on-1’s with supervisors or mandatory anti-union meetings on paid time)

• Fair and Expeditious Process (for example, no dragging out or delaying the election for the purposes of defeating the union)

• Meaningful Enforcement of the Local Agreement

• Honoring Employee Decisions

Conduct agreements following the above principles had been the hallmark of successful new healthcare organizing drives undertaken by the current leadership of NUHW. In contrast, when workers are unprotected by conduct agreements, employers often engage in coercive and intimidating conduct that creates enormous hurdles for workers to form a union.

Former SEIU organizer Fred Ross wrote an open letter to Memorial caregivers documenting SEIU’s bad faith in regards to their election:

I was disappointed but not surprised when SEIU rejected the offer of former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Monsignor Brenkle to mediate a fair election agreement, while NUHW accepted. Both SEIU and SJHS fear that if you have a free and fair election process – with no intimidation, retaliation, or negative campaigning – you will vote your conscience and select NUHW: the union whose leaders have stood by you for the past six years. SEIU’s actions have had the effect of encouraging SJHS to mount a very aggressive anti-union campaign.


Caregivers and the Santa Rosa community stand up to an anti-union campaign

Despite previously agreeing to negotiate for fair election guidelines, St. Joseph Health System seized on SEIU’s refusal to accept mediation and undertook an anti-union campaign at Memorial. Caregivers have been subject to 1-on-1 meetings with their supervisors in which they have received information on how to calculate the money that the union would “take” from their paycheck. Management has held “voluntary” meetings with Memorial caregivers where the subjects covered include anti-NUHW materials that come directly from SEIU’s website.

In response, scholars, caregivers, and leaders in the Santa Rosa faith and political communities have stood up to demand a fair election. In fact, a group of clergy and political leaders have formed a Fair Election Oversight Commission that includes Santa Rosa City Councilmember Veronica Jacobi and Monsignor John Brenkle, the pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church. Brenkle offered this assessment of the situation in Santa Rosa:

“The reports we’ve been hearing from workers at the hospital are truly disturbing, SEIU has prevented any ground rules from being set, and workers are facing a hostile atmosphere in what should be a place of healing and caring. When there is behavior by the hospital or by a union that interferes with their right to choose freely, we want workers to be able to report that to an independent body.”


SEIU’s conduct violates its own principles, and actively supports an anti-union campaign

SEIU’s conduct in Santa Rosa, coupled with the allegations of illegal tactics used by SEIU in the June 2009 Fresno homecare election, raise profound questions about what, if any, standards SEIU holds itself to. Given that SEIU had previously agreed to a nation-wide fair election agreement with the US Catholic Bishops, it has serious implications that SEIU has abandoned that agreement in principle and in practice in Santa Rosa.

SEIU-UHW trustee Eliseo Medina responded to NUHW’s offer to negotiate ground rules in Santa Rosa with the following letter:

While we would welcome the opportunity to reach an agreement on ground rules with the employer, we do not believe it serves the interests of Santa Rosa Memorial employees to include a third party whose standing as a labor organization is little more than wishful thinking.

When allies of the workers in Santa Rosa like the North Bay Labor Council, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Monsignor Brenkle pointed out to Eliseo Medina that NUHW has the support of Santa Rosa Memorial’s workers, and that those workers, if nothing else, deserved a fair election in which to make their choice of union representation, Medina and SEIU’s response went beyond silence.

While rejecting efforts by religious leaders and labor allies across the country to intervene, SEIU launched a nasty anti-union campaign aimed at undermining workers’ support for their chosen union. Rather than encouraging workers to organize around their shared concerns, SEIU launched a smear campaign, bombarding workers with dozens of mailers including grotesque cartoons of union leaders loading bags of dues money into a truck. (See the mailer for yourself.)

It is precisely this kind of deceptive negative campaigning that a fair election agreement would forbid. In contrast, the workers organizing with NUHW have taken a different approach, an election campaign rooted in the workers’ own concerns and the reasons they’re forming a union.

That anti-union mailer is a symptom of how low SEIU has stooped in its “stop at nothing” campaign to defeat NUHW, a campaign that now seems bent on denying workers at Santa Rosa Memorial their chance to join any union.


a David against two Goliaths

Santa Rosa Memorial caregivers have worked for six years for this moment. Little did they know when they began that they would be up against both a health care corporation and an anti-NUHW drive by SEIU. As Randy Shaw writes in an excellent article summarizing the meaning of this election in Beyond Chron:

SRMH workers begin casting ballots Thursday, with votes tabulated Friday night. The outcome hinges on whether the massive anti-union campaign jointly waged by SEIU and management convinces enough workers to reject the demonstrable financial benefits and increased job security that comes with joining a union.

Shaw emphasizes, however, that a pro-union vote in Santa Rosa could “end labor’s year on a triumphant note.”

You can help and stay informed by joining NUHW’s Facebook Solidarity group.

{Paul Delehanty is an employee of  NUHW, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, a vibrant and democratic movement of healthcare workers, dedicated to dignity, justice, and healthcare for all.}

Serious charges against SEIU in Fresno

Last June, in advance of a union election for 10,000 homecare workers in Fresno County, NUHW had built relationships with thousands of homecare providers through months of door-to-door organizing and the leadership of caregivers who had built the union in Fresno and who supported NUHW.

In response, on the eve of the election, SEIU brought 1,000 organizers to Fresno to conduct a “blitz” of home visits to overturn NUHW’s advantage.

Now, according to newly released sworn testimony from workers and SEIU staff whistleblowers who worked on the campaign in Fresno, SEIU staff committed serious violations of the rules in the Fresno at the direction of their superiors, including harassing, intimidating and threatening voters and handling workers’ ballots in violations of election law.

There were clear rules and state laws that governed the Fresno election:

-a union organizer should not open, handle, mark or alter a voter’s ballot

-a union organizer should not use threats of reprisal or force to intimidate voters

-a union organizer should not use intimidation and fear to deprive voters of a free choice in an election

-a union organizer should not obtain unsupervised access to voters’ marked ballots

As reported in the Fresno Bee on November 12th, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) filed a complaint with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and organized a petition calling on PERB to investigate these serious charges regarding the treatment of workers in the Fresno election.

NUHW’s complaint is based not only on the sworn testimony of the Fresno caregivers. NUHW’s charge that SEIU crossed the line in Fresno is also based on the affidavits of two SEIU organizers who have left SEIU and become whistleblowers.

(For an excellent article providing some background on this story, please see author Steve Early’s article today in In These Times.)


SEIU Whistleblower testimony

Carlos Martinez is the SEIU staffer mentioned by the worker in the video. His testimony appears (Exhibit 8, pgs. 20-26) in NUHW’s Fresno complaint.

In his testimony Martinez spoke about trainings with SEIU leaders:

The speaker for SEIU at each of these meetings was Rebecca Malberg, the Temporary Director for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West and Ben Tracey, the Lead Community Organizer assigned to Fresno, California. I personally was present for four (4) such meetings. At each of these meeting Malberg and Tracey went over the same points. Malberg told the campaigners to tell the voters that if they (the voters) voted for NUHW and NUHW won the election, the voters would lose their jobs as In-Home Support Service providers, that they (the voters) would lose their medical benefits and that they would no longer have the $20.00 co-pay provision with Kaiser; that they County would reduce the wages for providers to the minimum wage; and that providers would lose their hours and that those who provided In-Home Support Services for family members would no longer be able to care for such family members.

According to Martinez’ testimony, Rebecca Malberg also instructed Carlos Martinez to break state law:

During a conversation between myself and Malberg she stated to me that SEIU personnel should not touch, mark or change the ballots. However, as this statement was being made to me Malberg winked and asked me you understand right? I stated I understood her direction. I understood her direction to mean that SEIU should touch, mark or change the ballots if necessary to win the election but that no one was to know about it because it was not proper to do so. Malberg stated that the campaigners should make certain that all ballots supporting SEIU were actually mailed. Malberg warned campaigners, however, not to touch the envelopes. When asked how to make sure that envelopes were mailed, Malberg told campaigners to either take the voter to the postbox or to take the envelopes. Malberg instructed that if the campaigners took envelopes from voters, the campaigners should have the voters place the envelope in the purple bag supplied to campaigners by SEIU, and then to dump the envelopes into a mailbox directly from the bag.  Using this process the campaigners would never actually touch the envelope.

According to the affidavit, another SEIU leader, Nathan Selzer, instructed Martinez to violate the rules, even giving instructions how to do so in a step by step process :

I was at a voter’s residence during the campaign when the voter showed me the ballot that the voter had marked. The ballot had been marked NUHW. I then presented all of the arguments that had been covered during the orientation meetings, and convinced the voter to give me her ballot.  At that time I placed a a telephone call to Nathan Selzer for direction. I called Selzer because he was the person to whom I reported during the campaign. It had been instructed that all of the media releases made by SEIU out of the Fresno office had to go through Selzer. During the telephone call about the ballot in question Selzer instructed me to take the following steps, which I did. I crossed off the the mark on the ballot for NUHW and wrote next to that box the word “error.” I then drew an arrow to the box corresponding to a vote for SEIU and placed an “X” in that box. Finally, I wrote the words “this is the correct” next to the mark for SEIU. Selzer instructed me to take the above action because it would ensure that the vote would not be counted for NUHW.

In a mail-in secret ballot election the voter controls their vote. The voter marks the ballot, casts the vote, seals the envelope and mails the ballot themselves. It is against the rules for an organizer to even so much as touch ballot materials, much less put that ballot under their unsupervised control or mark the ballot.

The testimony of the second SEIU whistleblower, Richard O’Brien (Exhibit 14, pgs. 56-57), is a powerful testament to the grave misgivings some SEIU staffers had about what they were asked to do in Fresno.

Here’s what O’Brien testified:

I did not come forward before this time to personally offer a declaration out of fear of possible retribution from my employer SEIU Healthcare PA. I have recently found other employment in the Labor Movement. I did, however, strongly feel that unethical and unlawful conduct was taking place, which is why I provided [Alexandra Early] with a copy of the briefing document once she told me, after the election, that it would be an important piece of information for PERB to have.

I strongly agree with the characterizations made in [Early’s] declaration of the false and misleading nature of the claims that we SEIU staff were instructed to make by this briefing document. I have come forward because I believe that what SEIU staff were doing and the directives we were receiving was unethical.


Testimony from Fresno Caregivers

As mentioned above, the complaint filed by NUHW includes the testimony of two SEIU whistleblowers and the sworn affidavits of Fresno caregivers Adriana Gomez (Exhibit 9, pgs. 28-29), Sheri Davis (Exhibit 10, pgs. 31-33), Patricia Barbosa Rodriguez (Exhibit 11, pgs. 35-42), Mary Townsend (Exhibit 12, pgs. 43-45), Irma Orozco (Exhibit 13, pgs. 48-49) all giving clear examples of SEIU misconduct in the Fresno homecare election.

Here are direct quotes from their testimony:

Carlos asked to see how I had marked my ballot. I showed him the ballot, which had already been marked for the “Red” team. Carlos then told me that if the Red team won the election my hours might be cut.  Carlos then took my ballot and made a mark for the SEIU team. Carlos also told me to put my initials on the ballot which I did.

Adriana Gomez

I watched two persons dressed in purple T-shirts wearing “SEIU” badges open my mailbox which is located in front of my home just outside the gate. They removed something from my mailbox at which point I opened the door and they quickly closed the mailbox.

After catching the SEIU employees rifling through my mail they came to my door and showed me an envelope which they said was my ballot. They opened the ballot and showed it to me and showed me where to mark the ballot.

Sheri Davis

On one day the purple people came to my home and told me that they would return every day until I voted for them.

On another day the purple people asked me if I knew that they were a big and powerful union in this country and that they could make sure my hours were taken away from me. In this same conversation they asked me if I was living in the United States legally because if not immigration might find out and I could be deported.

Patricia Barbosa Rodriquez

On one particular day, two such persons dressed in purple with SEIU name tags knocked on my front door and I didn’t answer. The persons began to knock very hard on the front door repeatedly until my daughter answered the door. At the same time, my telephone rang and I answered. A  man’s voice on the telephone identified himself as SEIU and stated that there were SEIU people at my home that would assist me in marking and mailing my ballot.

During the telephone conversation mentioned above I told the man on the phone that I was going to vote “red” and he became very forceful. He stated that if I voted red I would lose my hours and my benefits. He state that the red union did not have the money and the power that SEIU had, and that the red union would spend all the money it received from members without providing any benefits.

I spoke with the persons at my front door, who identified themselves as SEIU employees, and were waving a piece of paper at me which I believe was my ballot.

During the time when I was speaking to the man on the telephone as well as the people at my door I was frightened and felt very pressured by their behavior as well as the man’s statement that I would lose my hours and benefits.

The man on the telephone frightened me and I believed that my ability to make a living and support my family was at risk unless I voted for SEIU as he told me to.

Mary Townsend

The people from the purple team told me that they were very powerful people and that they had lots of money to do whatever they want and that they were the only union that could protect me.

They told me that if I did not vote for them I will lose my hours, my job and all my benefits that they were given me  already.

Irma Orozco



The proper response to this testimony should be to call for an investigation.

The need for an investigation into SEIU’s conduct during the Fresno election is urgent and compelling. At the final ballot count, SEIU held a razor-slim margin of 200 votes out of 6,000 cast with hundreds of uncounted ballots. The free choice of workers to decide which union represents them in Fresno is at question.

If these serious allegations regarding SEIU’s conduct in the Fresno election are not investigated, what can workers seeking fair elections free of intimidation anywhere expect?


Sign the petition

What NUHW is asking is that the public consider the testimony of Fresno caregivers and SEIU whistleblowers and join California healthcare workers and their allies to call on the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to conduct a thorough investigation of SEIU’s conduct in Fresno.

We are confident that an investigation of the Fresno election will show that SEIU’s organizers broke state law in their interactions with voters and that SEIU leaders specifically instructed their organizers to do so.

Please join us and SIGN THE PETITION calling on the PERB to conduct a thorough investigation of SEIU’s conduct in the Fresno election.


{Paul Delehanty is an employee of  NUHW, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, a vibrant and democratic movement of healthcare workers, dedicated to dignity, justice, and healthcare for all. You can express your solidarity with the workers building NUHW by joining our FACEBOOK page and following us on TWITTER.}

NUHW: SEIU v. the rest of the labor movement

Per reports from Randy Shaw from the UNITE-HERE convention in Chicago, the entire labor movement has allied with UNITE-HERE in opposition to SEIU’s raids into UNITE-HERE’s jurisdictions.

Here’s the key graf:

Laborers President Terrence O’Sullivan described SEIU’s conduct as “deplorable,” and said “we didn’t join Change to Win to raid and hijack another union’s members.” Change to Win leaders James Hoffa of the Teamsters and Joe Hansen of the United Food and Commercial Workers also pledged support, while Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (one of the only two international presidents that SEIU claimed back its position) now supports UNITE HERE. UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm defiantly castigated SEIU as “the bosses union,” and said that his workers are now in a “two headed fight: a fight with the boss and a fight with the boss’s lackey union.” Wilhelm said there has been “real widespread revulsion” throughout the labor movement against SEIU’s conduct, and the UNITE HERE convention has announced a new labor movement unity, with SEIU alone on its own.

And here’s the key graf from Randy Shaw’s 2nd article:

One day after 15 international union leaders vowed to provide “material and moral” support to UNITE HERE’s defense against SEIU raids, the AFL-CIO sent a letter to the UNITE HERE convention condemning “all raiding of organized workers by any union.” This letter represents a dramatic shift in position for the labor federation, which previously had been advised by its general counsel to stay out of the fight between SEIU and UNITE HERE. Adding to building momentum against SEIU’s conduct were scathing words from Operating and Engineers President Vincent J. Giblin, who described SEIU President Andy Stern as the “Darth Vader of the labor movement” and who vowed to provide “every resource” of his union, including strike benefits, to help UNITE HERE in its struggle. It was also revealed on the Convention’s second day that former UNITE HERE President and now SEIU Executive Vice-President Bruce Raynor had shifted $23 million in cash from UNITE HERE to his new union prior to his departure; this prompted UNITE HERE’s Jim Dupont to lead the crowd in a roaring chant “They say arbitrate, we say incarcerate.”

This is a significant moment for labor. The time for progressives not taking sides in an “internal labor dispute” is over. This is a fundamental disagreement between “bottom up” and “top down” unionism. This is a disagreement between those who would organize workers at the grassroots level and those, like SEIU, who would hire consultants to raid jurisdictions organized through the hard-fought efforts of workers over decades.

The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Teamsters, and Randi Weingarten of the AFT (just one week ago a purported firm Andy Stern ally) are just a few of the organizations that have signed on to a statement opposing SEIU’s raiding tactics against UNITE-HERE and pledging support and resources to defend UNITE-HERE from SEIU and any employer intending to take advantage of SEIU’s attacks on UNITE-HERE.

Why is this important?

It’s important for two reasons.

For one, most significantly, this shows that the entire labor movement has stepped up and said to Andy Stern, “Enough!”  Stern, under the guise of unifying the labor movement actually used his powerful position as the head of SEIU to destabilize the movement and aggregate power to himself. Stern threatened to raid UNITE-HERE’s core jurisdictions if UNITE-HERE did not accept his terms regarding Workers United. Stern’s threats to raid UNITE-HERE’s gaming and hotel jurisdictions, however, proved to be a bridge too far. When labor leaders like Randi Weingarten, Thomas Buffenbarger, Gerald McEntee, James Hoffa and Terrence O’Sullivan come together in opposing Andy Stern, folks should take heed. That’s a big deal.

What this development points up is a unity movement within labor. That unity is arising, however, in opposition to Andy Stern, not under him.

Further, what the UNITE-HERE convention shows the netroots is something simple. We’ve been lied to. SEIU has consistently implied that Andy Stern and SEIU spoke for the US labor movement as a whole. That is simply not true and has never been true. We were invited to fall in line behind Stern and SEIU without ever asking questions about SEIU’s conduct with regard to UNITE-HERE or, here in California, SEIU’s trusteeship of the reform movement coming out of SEIU-UHW West. Most significantly, we were never given the truth about Stern’s top down model regarding organizing and bargaining, an approach that locked workers out of the bargaining process.

Today, neutrality regarding SEIU is no longer possible.

SEIU has systematically lied to the netroots about their raiding into UNITE-HERE, about SEIU’s attempt to thwart a reform movement coming out of SEIU-UHW and Andy Stern’s agenda in favor of top-down, predatory unionism.

What Randy Shaw documents from Chicago is a sea change within the labor movement. Labor is uniting in opposition to Andy Stern. Even within SEIU, there are powerful voices arising in opposition to Stern’s tactics. The 100,000 California healthcare workers committed to building NUHW and leaving SEIU are just the tip of the iceberg.

The question for the progressives, then, is whether and for how long to continue to embrace neutrality in a labor dispute that the labor movement as a whole has now spoken to with unanimity.


Please support NUHW, JOIN our growing FACEBOOK Solidarity Page!

{Paul Delehanty works for the workers building NUHW}

NUHW: Fresno Ballot Count

Good morning from the Fresno ballot count!

Today represents the official count of the ballots cast by Fresno homecare providers in an election that took place between June 1st and 15th in.Fresno County. The outcome of this    election will determine whether NUHW or SEIU represents 10,000 Fresno homecare providers…

9AM –So, no wireless here at the County Office Building, so this is a mobile liveblog, forgive my thumbs!

9:15 AM Both sides fill the room. We’re upstairs in a small, windowless 30′ x 30′ room. The ballots are rolled on two carts by the officials. Some of  us are going to have to leave…looks like we’re down to 18 audience members from either side.

9:30 A warm cheer goes up from the NUHW side, Toni Landin, an NUHW activist who was injured in a car accident during the election is wheeled in.

10:00 AM They are slicing open envelopes and the ballot counters are working at three tables with an obsever from each side.

10:15 AM We have official news. Just under 6,000 Ballots were received by the County.

10:45 AM Outer Ballot envelopes are still being opened.(The stamped envelopes that contain the secret ballot envelopes, which contain the ballots) Piles of green secret ballot envelopes are rising on each table. Conversations in Hmong, Spanish and English fill the room as the envelope opening machine whirs.

11:15 AM The ballot counters take a break..No secret ballots have been opened yet.

11:30 AM They are opening the green secret ballot envelopes by hand and making piles of ballots face down on the table. (For folks out there wondering…there’s no counting involved in this process, just opening ballot envelopes by hand and removing ballots.)

12:00 PM They are still opening ballots by hand. Some of the ballot counters are breaking for lunch. Bear with us here, this process will take some time. This election is well on its way to breaking record turnout.

A big hello goes out to the NUHW supporters who’ve found some shade in front of the building.

12:30 More and more ballots are on the table. Still no news or ballot counts.Take out coffees slowly are making an appearence.Apparently this office building also has an affordable and friendly cafeteria. The grilled chicken and vegetables gets a big thumbs up as does the Turkey Breast Sandwich.

12:50 PM I’d like to take.a moment to thank Mrs. Hall of Fresno who hosted this blogger on short notice last night. Thank you and enjoy the Irish Dance Competition!

1:15 PM Here’s the first official quote from NUHW, “With approximately 20% of the ballots sorted this looks like a close race.”

1:50 PM Second official quote from NUHW: “With 30% of the ballots sorted this still looks like a close race.”

2:05 The sound of ballots being unfolded is non stop. Envelopes are still being opened by hand.Folks on both sides have started standing up to watch the ballots sorted into piles.

2:15 PM Since you all don’t have visuals…let me try to describe what everyone in the room is seeing.  There’s one table opening ballots and two tables unfolding and sorting those ballots into piles. There’s no official ballot counting at all yet.Each side’s observers can look from their position at the sorting table…but the ballots are piled up on the sort piles very quickly.

2:30 PM The last of the mail pallets with ballot envelopes are on the tables. All three tables are opening them.

2:45 Official word from NUHW: “With 75% of the ballots sorted, this continues to look like a close race.”

3:05 PM The vote counting area is being cordoned off.

Both sides have grown to over 18 people in the room. The officials demand that both sides get back to 18.

Vote count to begin soon.

3:20 The vote count is about to begin.

At each table one vote counter counts groups of 25 Ballots from a sorted pile, then a second vote counter verifies those ballots. The ballots will be sorted into blocs of 25 by vote and turned over to officials.

3:25 PM The counting has begun.

3:35 PM This will be the fastest aspect of the process. It is going very swiftly.

3:45 PM The room is mostly silent at this point.The count continues. Blocs of 25 votes are being handed in every minute or less.

3:55 PM Still counting.

4:15 PM The count is finished and the ballots have been handed in to the officials.

4:30 The election official has announced that there is an exact 200 vote difference between the sides. One “unit,” he does not say which,has 2769 and the other “unit” has 2569.

There are hundreds of set aside and contested ballots. They are discussing those totals now.

4:45 The number of ballots yet to be counted is still being determined. There are hundreds of them and there are numerous categories of ballots that were set aside and not counted. (For example, ballots not sealed in the green secret envelope, ballots damaged in the mail, ballots sealed with tape.)

5PM The leaders on both sides have retreated to strategize how to follow through on the remaining ballots.

Now both sides have returned and are stating what they will and won’t accept, and will or won’t challenge.

The election officials have agreed to count an initial 300+ ballots that both sides agree upon counting.

Having counted those ballots the officials will weigh whether the margin has closed or not and whether any remaining ballots that stand uncounted could change the outcome.

5:15 PM This goes without saying…but it’s clear in the room that the Fresno homecare workers whose election this was are hanging on every decision and every word.

5:35 They’ve begun counting 290 ballots that were mailed in the retrun envelope but not in the secret ballot envelope.

6:00 The ballots in that pool of 290 are being tallied and we have a new margin shortly…NUHW 119  SEIU 155 was announced to the room with the balance no union or spoiled.

6:10 They now announce that SEIU was the union with 2769 ballots and NUHW was the union with 2569 ballots. The net margin is now being recalculated.

6:25 SEIU-UHW is taking this lull in the action to videotape some celebrations. Both sides are still in the room awaiting the margin announcement.

6:30 SEIU’s lawyer claims victory with the new margin and asks that the counting stop. (There are around 100 votes left at issue.) NUHW asks that all the votes be counted and indicates that we want all the ballots protected for a recount.NUHW’s lawyer also mentions that there are grave legal issues raised by SEIU’s conduct in this election.

Dave Regan: the public face of SEIU in Fresno

Dave Regan, executive vice-president of SEIU and appointed trustee of SEIU-UHW gave a speech last night to hundreds of SEIU organizers who have been shipped into Fresno from around the country.

Dave Regan is the public face of SEIU in Fresno County where 10,000 homecare workers are voting in an election to leave SEIU and join their own union, NUHW.  Here’s a sample of what SEIU’s top spokesperson in Fresno had to say:

You’d think Dave Regan would have addressed issues that Fresno’s homecare workers care about like the cuts to their wages but “bury them” is the message SEIU wants to send to the thousands of Fresno homecare workers who signed petitions to leave SEIU and join NUHW:

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’ve talked to alot of people in this room and people know what that means when we talk about “old school.”

There’s a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things.

And the job that we have to do over the next week and the next two weeks as these ballots go out is that we have to just not win, we have to just not prevail, but we have run up the score and we have to drive a stake through heart of the thing that is NUHW, we gotta put them in the ground and bury them [cheers]

Dave Regan, didn’t stop there. “Old School” clearly means tough talking:

That’s tough talk from a labor union that claims to be the face of progressive activism:

In other words what we gotta do here, my “old school” friends is we have to administer an “old school” ass whipping over the next two weeks. [cheers]

I know everybody knows what that means: we have to give them a butt whipping that they will never forget. So that they don’t even think that they can take this mess outta Fresno and bring it anywhere else.

But what does Dave Regan actually have to say about Fresno, the city and county where the homecare workers live and work?

That’s an interesting way to talk about a city where the people voting in the election you are contesting live.

I also think it’s important to acknowledge that here in Fresno you might have noticed we’re not in a fancy hotel ballroom. There’s really not good air conditioning here. It is hot. We’re kind of in a barn. That’s what this room is like.

Fresno is not a place that very many of us would have found all on our own without this reason to come here.

And the reason I say that is that too often in the union we talk about the union like all the important stuff goes on in Washington D.C. or New York City or Los Angeles or San Francisco but sisters and brothers I think that we all know that sometimes if you want to get the job done, if you want to defend and protect what really matters you’ve got to go somewhere that’s not sexy, you’ve got to go somewhere that’s not glamorous, you’ve got to go somewhere that’s not Hollywood, you gotta go to Fresno. [laughter]

When Dave Regan says, “Fresno is not a place that very many of us would have found all on our own without this reason to come here”…that’s the whole problem.

When Fresno homecare workers needed SEIU-UHW to defend their wages and benefits from cuts by the County Board of Supervisors, that didn’t count as, “a reason to come to here.” And when Fresno homecare workers needed SEIU-UHW to mobilize them to defend their wages and benefits from cuts by Governor Schwarzenegger, that didn’t count as, “a reason to come here.”

The only reason for SEIU-UHW to come to Fresno with hundreds of out-of-state staff and millions of dollars in ads is to stop Fresno homecare workers from addressing SEIU-UHW’s failure by standing up for themselves and forming their own strong, democratic, caregiver-led union, NUHW.

To give you an idea of what an actual Fresno homecare worker thinks of SEIU and her long struggle to build a powerful union representing homecare workers in Fresno, read this excellent editorial by homecare worker and leader Flo Furlow from the Fresno Bee:

The thing that made me most proud of the union we built was that it was based on a fundamental value we learned from our friends in the disability rights movement: “Make no decision about us without us.” In our union, we elected our own representatives from neighborhoods all over Fresno County, and we made the decisions about our own futures. The era of dignity and respect for home-care workers had begun. We won our current wage of $10.25 an hour and lifted thousands out of poverty.

But by 2009, some of our union’s Washington, D.C., leaders had lost their way. The leaders of the SEIU, our parent union, came to believe that they were smarter than their own members, and that only they should have the right to make decisions for us. It all came to a head when they took over our local union and replaced all our elected local leaders with their appointed bosses flown in from other parts of the country. The aftermath of that takeover has been heartbreaking. Before the takeover, we had a strong voice in our union. We were able to stop wage cuts and protect services year after year for the Fresno’s most vulnerable residents.

Today we have no voice at all. Instead the only voice is that of out-of-touch SEIU officials we never elected, who this April locked us out of an arbitration over our own wages. The workers who bargained our contract with the county were shut out, and as a result, we are now watching our wages fall and our families’ sense of security collapse while we have no voice to change it.

But if there’s one thing I learned from the civil rights movement, it’s that you don’t have to just accept injustice. So we didn’t. Thousands of us signed petitions to keep our own elected leadership, under a new name, the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The leaders of NUHW are the health care workers and leaders we elected, who we trust and who respect our voices.

We are voting in an election next week to take our union back, and to return it to the principle we founded it on: “No decision about us without us.” I am excited to be voting for NUHW to put our union back on track to serving home-care workers and the people who depend on us.

In fact, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, stood with Flo Furlow last week in support of Fresno’s homecare workers and of NUHW:

The contrast couldn’t be more clear. On the one hand, tough, trash-talking Dave Regan is the face of SEIU in Fresno. On the other hand, Flo Furlow and Dolores Huerta, two women who’ve committed their lives to workers’ power and social justice stand with NUHW. Those who’ve read the neverending stream of SEIU advertising online, should take a long hard look at those videos of Dave Regan above.

You can help Fresno homecare workers win their union in Fresno!

Click here to join our FACEBOOK solidarity group and click here to VOLUNTEER.

{Paul Delehanty is an employee of NUHW and is currently on the ground in Fresno.}

NUHW in Fresno: Rocking the 5-5-9

Local California blogger Adios Andy has a great post up about how workers from all over California are volunteering in the upcoming June election in which 10,000 Fresno County homecare workers are seeking to leave SEIU and join NUHW.

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers was in Fresno yesterday to endorse NUHW and rally homecare workers in Fresno County:

Fresno represents, as I noted last week reporting on NUHW’s landslide victory in the election at Doctor’s San Pablo, grassroots union democracy in action:

Starting in June ballots will be delivered to 10,000 homecare workers in Fresno County. 2,500 of those workers petitioned to join NUHW this spring in a grassroots campaign that won 1,000 more signatures than were necessary to secure an election to choose NUHW. Hundreds of fellow healthcare workers from across the state have volunteered to go to Fresno and help Fresno homecare workers win their election and join NUHW.

As Cal Winslow wrote in Counterpunch, Fresno is also Ground Zero for “bottom up” trade union activism:

The fundamental issues in the Fresno contest are clear then – the NUHW, if it wins this election, will maintain and build on standards fought for and won by members of the now wrecked UHW, including restoring recent Fresno County proposed wage cuts, while fighting for healthcare benefits for all, and challenging state caps on wages and benefits and a system that perpetuates for these workers a cycle of permanent poverty.

Fresno, is not, however, the only location for NUHW worker activism. Kaiser workers in Stockton California rallied yesterday to express their democratic right to be represented by the union of their choice. And workers at Alameda County Medical Center have launched their own NUHW blog.

I’m on the ground in Fresno right now and will be keeping NUHW online activists up to date about all the developments at our FACEBOOK solidarity group and at my TWITTER feed.

If you are in California and you’d like to join the workers building NUHW and help Fresno homecare workers win an election to join their own union, you can VOLUNTEER by signing up here. There are phonebanking opportunities this weekend in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco.

{Paul Delehanty is an employee of the workers building NUHW.}

NUHW: Workers win election at Doctor’s San Pablo

For the last month, Andy Stern’s SEIU has been trying to stop worker activists at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo from organizing to win an election and build their own union, NUHW. Today they counted the votes.

158 workers voted for NUHW.

24 workers voted for SEIU.

There’s a story behind this David vs. Goliath victory, and it has implications for everyone who cares about the labor movement and grassroots efforts to build workers’ power. Let me tell you why…

When Andy Stern took over California’s SEIU UHW-West, removed the elected leaders who had led a reform movement within SEIU, and began firing staff and stewards who wouldn’t sign a loyalty oath, many in the labor movement thought Stern had beaten those workers cold. Even when healthcare workers announced they were forming an independent union, NUHW, and were preparing to file for elections to leave SEIU, few gave the workers building NUHW much of a chance at succeeding.

The question that the naysayers ignored, however, was the same question Andy Stern ignores to this day: what do the workers really want?

Doctor's San Pablo victory

All over California, in response to Stern’s trusteeship, tens of thousands of workers filed petitions to hold elections to choose NUHW, a new union committed to workers’ power and democracy. Almost 100,000 SEIU members are now waiting for elections to leave SEIU and join NUHW. That’s more workers than petitioned for union elections across the entire nation last year. Workers want to join NUHW; that’s why they passed these petitions worker-to-worker in a grassroots effort all over the state of California.

SEIU’s response was to call those petitions “bogus” and to mount an aggressive campaign to delay the elections. Workers, however, have a federal right to petition to be represented by the union of their choice. SEIU can’t delay votes everywhere or block elections forever. And now, these elections have begun to be scheduled and workers have begun to vote.

The first of those elections was held at Doctor’s Medical Hospital San Pablo this month. Despite months of campaigning by SEIU, including threats and harassment against NUHW activists, ballots were counted today and the results weren’t even close: 158 to 24.

SEIU has spent millions shipping in organizers from all over the nation, and sending glossy direct mail and making phone calls to workers to try to stop them from joining NUHW. They have even diverted resources from other locals, and from winning EFCA and healthcare reform, to crush this growing movement of workers.

Yet with all those resources, they don’t have the one thing that makes a union strong: the support and participation of working people themselves. At Doctor’s San Pablo, SEIU could only find 24 out of 300 caregivers to vote for them.

Unsurprisingly, just as SEIU called workers’ petitions “bogus” and the effort to form NUHW “illegal,” SEIU is now claiming that the election results were “tainted.” Clearly, SEIU’s team haven’t taken the lesson written in bold letters from the election at Doctor’s San Pablo: spin will only get you so far.

Starting in June ballots will be delivered to 10,000 homecare workers in Fresno County. 2,500 of those workers petitioned to join NUHW this spring in a grassroots campaign that won 1,000 more signatures than were necessary to secure an election to choose NUHW. Hundreds of fellow healthcare workers from across the state have volunteered to go to Fresno and help Fresno homecare workers win their election and join NUHW. In fact, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, will be leading a rally to support Fresno homecare workers joining NUHW next Wednesday.

Winning won’t be easy. SEIU is spending millions on paid advertising and a flood of direct mail aimed at misleading workers. Homecare workers have already reported being visited by SEIU staff and being told they would lose their jobs if they voted for NUHW. SEIU is expected to parachute in hundreds of out-of-state staff just before the election to visit workers at home and pressure them for their votes.

You can help.

First, by joining NUHW’s FACEBOOK Solidarity Group, and second by volunteering to help Fresno homecare workers win their fight for freedom against SEIU’s Goliath: VOLUNTEER.

Thanks for reading!

{Paul Delehanty works doing online communications for the workers building NUHW.}

NUHW: Founding Convention

Last Saturday, over 700 workers met at Everett Middle School in San Francisco to hold the official founding convention of their union, NUHW.

Here’s what the convention looked like:

And here’s the Full Convention Report.

I’d also like to bring your attention to an online program that was part of the convention and some recent NUHW actions below…

Hundreds of workers who could not attend our founding convention shared their support for NUHW by sending comments through our web site, and we posted all of their comments on a wall for everyone to read at our Founding Convention.

NUHW Founding Convention

You can read a selection of these comments at the NUHW Member Blog at our website.

Inspired by our convention and recognizing important challenges ahead, NUHW activists are on the move.

Here’s NUHW activists rallying to protest layoffs and employer collusion with SEIU at CPMC and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in the last week:

And in Fresno, 100+ homecare workers packed a meeting to protest wage and benefits cuts and SEIU’s failure to adequately represent them.

Fresno, Calif.-Over a hundred Fresno homecare providers packed the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to oppose an agenda item that would reduce their wages and benefits to $9.50 an hour. But they weren’t just there to protest the wage cuts-they also pointed to the repeated failure of their union, SEIU, to support them in stopping the cuts.

“SEIU just failed to stop a different set of cuts last week,” said Flo Furlow, a homecare worker. “Now the county wants to cut our wages even more, and this time SEIU isn’t even going to take it to arbitration. How many times can we let this happen?”

With elections upcoming in Fresno County and ongoing at Doctor’s Medical Center San Pablo, NUHW activists are reaching out to progressive Californians and asking for your support.

You can be a part of the member-led, democratic movement represented by NUHW by joining us SIGNING UP at our website or by joining our growing FACEBOOK SOLIDARITY PAGE for the latest updates.

{Paul Delehanty works for the National Union of Healthcare Workers.}