Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Unconventional Convention, Part Five

(image courtesy of the NUHW Photostream on Flickr)

John Borsos came to the podium, and it seemed to me like everyone started paying serious attention. To start out, some stats were passed along to us including the following:
In three months' time, NLRB petitions were filed for 360 facilities, covering 96,000 employees. Some are first-time (nonunionized) facilities; some have currently open contracts; some are existing contracts which are subject to the contract bar, and some fall into a "gray area", like KP and CHW. To this date, each and every petition has been blocked by the NLRB. The question on everyone's mind is...Why?

The explanation, though a bit complex, boils down to this: SEIU is trying desperately to hold onto that which it cannot keep by its own merits, and as such SEIU is forced to try every legal strategy possible to hold off any free and fair elections. For example, SEIU is filing the exact, same unfair labor practice charge against NUHW for each and every petition filed, no matter the circumstance - they are almost literally word-for-word duplicates except for the names of the facilities. This, combined with the bureaucratic nature of the NLRB and the NLRB requirement that all charges be fully and thoroughly investigated (no matter how specious they may be) has resulted in a king-sized logjam at NLRB.

The nature of the backlog at NLRB can be seen from this example: Nationwide, in all of 2008, there were a total of 75,000 employees who had filed for representation elections; in the first quarter of 2009, NUHW alone ran up in excess of 90,000 people. The result: Paralysis.

The SEIU approach to the NLRB breaks down into three basic formats:
  1. SEIU charges that NUHW is an "employer-dominated union." This then requires statements, discovery, etc., etc., etc. As stated above, NLRB has the legal obligation to completely investigate all claims, no matter how bogus.
  2. SEIU has begun to file unfair labor practice charges against itself - something which has been called by even the most jaded staffers at NLRB as "novel charges" - by proposing that prior to the trusteeship, the leadership of UHW did not bargain at any facilities in good faith, and therefore left contracts open to challenge for any new union to come in and sweep up.
  3. SEIU claims that NUHW is engaging in intimidation tactics in its organizing campaign.
So how do we break the NLRB logjam?
  • Visits to the halls of Congress in Washington, and in local districts as well.
  • Member calls to elected representatives, but in particular to Senators Boxer and Feinstein. The NLRB answers to power, and once our elected representatives get tired of hearing about the NLRB dragging its feet in our petitions, they will in turn start leaning on NLRB, as Representatives Miller, Woolsey and Lee have already done.
  • Be prepared to hold SEIU (and Andy Stern in particular) to his own words regarding the rights of employees who can demonstrate majority signup in a workplace.
  • Continued aggressive litigation at NLRB - and possibly even directed AT the NLRB in order to break the logjam.
At this time, Sal Rosselli returned to the stage and laid out some details about the upcoming vote with Fresno homecare workers, and the importance that campaign will carry for NUHW. The election itself will be in June, and victory there in Fresno would instantly bring in officially (and protected from the predations of SEIU) roughly 10,000 dues-paying members into NUHW. When victory is achieved in Fresno, it will be a visible show of strength that will have the snowball effect that we will need in the various state personnel boards as well as even potentially at NLRB as well. And while the Fresno campaign will cost a lot of money, what it will break down to, ultimately, is just good old-fashioned union organizing, which is something that the leaders of NUHW have shown themselves to be quite good at over the years, and which SEIU has shown itself to be quite poor at over the years.

After a roughly 30-minute public statement/question-and-answer session with Sal, the highlight of which was a three-minute tirade from O'Connor Hospital's famous Hasnija from Bosnia, the quorum broke for lunch, and returned to division breakouts after lunch.

The next chapter will include my conclusions, thoughts and opinions about this most unconventional convention.

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