All posts by mringuette

More trouble brewing with CNA

There’s more trouble brewing with CNA.


I know I’ve come off as kind of shrill at times, so I want to step back and explain a little bit about the context of the CNA/SEIU conflict and why the implications should matter to everyone.

These intra-Labor fights are not taking place in a vacuum — first off the economy is bad and getting worse, for everyone. That means workers are more stressed than they have been in many years. Secondly, its no secret that the labor movement is facing a long-term downturn of its own.  Today 12.1% of the US workforce is represented by a union, compared to about 35% in the 1950s.

Broadly speaking, labor leaders have taken two approaches to dealing with the assault on organizing of the Reagan/Bush/Bush years – some have opted to fight for turf within the ever-shrinking pool of organized workers and others have tried to get back on the offensive by growing the labor movement overall.

SEIU has been at the forefront of the latter group since 1996. And the results speak for themselves.  Since 1996, we have grown by more than 1 million new members.  Today we bargain on behalf of 1.9 million workers. 


But our success has ironically made us something of a target for some who are more interested in expanding their own relative strength without concern for growing the over all movement.  That’s what’s happening with CNA.

SEIU works for years go to in and organize places like Ohio. SEIU waged a hard-fought multi-year campaign there. We sent letters, met with hospital CEOs and board members, united with community groups, knocked on doors, etc.  It was neither easy nor secret. SEIU leaders, staff and members worked for three+ years with the nurses, respiratory

therapists, janitors and other hospital workers, as well as in the community, to get to the point where we could hammer out fair election guidelines that would give the hospital workers the chance to form their union.

Six days before the election, CNA flew organizers in for the first time and did everything they could to poison the well.

It’s all detailed in a timeline here:… and there are a lot of articles and editorials from Ohio that spell out what happened as well.

So at the end of the day, at a time when only 12.1% of workers in this country have union representation and there are 100,000 nurses in California who have no union, the  California Nurses Association flew into Ohio to stop 8,000+ Ohio nurses and other healthcare workers from winning the right to form their union.  I’ve met some of these workers.  I am happy to put anyone who wants to listen in touch with them.  What the CNA did in Ohio was wrong.

And it’s happening again.  It’s happening in LA, it’s happening in Nevada, and it’s happening in Texas.

This isn’t a CNA v. SEIU thing – it’s more like CNA against every other union that would help nurses organize, including AFSCME, their fellow member in the AFL-CIO:…

CNA dropped a leaflet on hospitals in LA Wednesday that said:

“Unhappy with the Service Employees Union?

Want to switch to the California Nurses Association?

CNA has been contacted by many county RNs unhappy with SEIU

representation, asking if they can switch to representation by CNA.

The answer is YES!”  

(I am trying to get this online, but email me at media [at]  if you want the PDF).

More than 100,000 California nurses don’t have a union at all, but instead of helping those nurses to form a union, CNA is spending a fortune in its members’ dues money on efforts both inside and outside of CA to try to poach nurses who are already represented by unions.

Why they’re doing this is clear — it’s easier and less expensive to poach members from other unions than it is to organize non-union workers.


We think CNA’s approach reflects a cynicism rooted in a lack of faith in the future of the labor movement.

Here at SEIU, we’ve seen what happens when you take the union message to unorganized workers — the labor movement grows and with it so does the power of workers. At a time when the whole economy is reeling from years of Bush-era greed and manipulation for the benefit of the very wealthy few, Americans need the strength in community that comes from being organized at work like we haven’t in a long long time.


And that’s why this fight matters.  It’s not just some pissing match between labor bosses about who has more dues-paying members; we are involved in a bigger debate about whether or not the American workers can come together and form a community that sticks together and fights for better circumstances for all.

-Michelle Ringuette

DISCLOSURE: I work at SEIU. With 1.9 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America. SEIU is the nation’s largest health care union, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home care.  SEIU members are winning better wages, health care, and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today’s global economy.