Monday, April 27, 2009

An Unconventional Convention, Part Three

(image courtesy of the NUHW Photostream on Flickr)

Next up onto the stage were (soon to be former) members of SEIU, from most of the different divisions represented by Zombie UHW, there to give us a taste of what SEIU can "do" for you - or more accurately, what SEIU will do "to" you...

From a home care worker in San Francisco: SEIU called her to tell her that if she signed the decertification petition, she would lose contract protections and would get fired. She was called at home and told to come to a meeting, and that if she did not attend that meeting then she would lose her pension. When she did show up for the meeting, she and her peers who signed the decert petitions were isolated. SEIU was also in the habit of calling the police on its own members whenever they have the temerity to actually stand up for their own rights.

From a CHW employee in San Bernardino: SEIU removed the elected CHW bargaining team, and then sent removal letters similar to what we have seen here and elsewhere that went out to Kaiser stewards. SEIU then held new "elections" but previous elected members who were removed by SEIU were not allowed to stand for election. Ballots which were "written in" for the former members of the bargaining committee were altered or disposed of.

From a DoC employee in Gilroy: SEIU sent out a survey to the membership, asking them what they were looking for in the next contract. Unfortunately, one of the things on that survey was a "management rights clause." The membership took quite clear meaning from this survey - SEIU wants to insert a managements rights clause into the CHW contract, and something like that comes only from management. SEIU made a big deal about the recent Alameda Hospital contract, and the wage increases; one thing SEIU is not telling anyone is that, for the first time in over 40 years, workers at Alameda Hospital are now going to have to pay for medical coverage for their families - at a cost of in excess of $1000 per year per employee that has family coverage.

From a KaiPerm employee in Woodland Hills: He was a steward but was unilaterally removed by SEIU very shortly after the trusteeship was imposed. Prior to doing so, SEIU would constantly talk to him and try to set him against his co-workers. He spoke of the recent pension bargaining that KaiPerm went into with SEIU, where SEIU basically surrendered on pension calculations without a vote of the membership. Considering the lack of action that SEIU took in the recent layoff of the IT professionals, it can be easily concluded that the next step in the SEIU givebacks to KaiPerm is a loosening (or outright cancellation) of the employment and income security guarantees that are in the current contract.

From a SNF employee at Emerald Gardens: She spoke of constant SEIU attempts to backstep on their existing contract, and threats to anyone who tries to make SEIU stand up to its part of the bargain. She told of management being unwilling to stand up to SEIU intimidation of workers, and of even collusion between SEIU and management against workers who are trying to enforce the language of their standing contract. At the same time, the union that all her colleagues have chosen and are choosing, NUHW, is being blocked at all possible entry points by both management and SEIU - sometimes even working together.

From a nurse from Natividad Medical Center in Salinas: She described the merger that created her current union, SEIU 521, as a "garbage merger" which gives proof to the statement that bigger is not always better. When the membership asked for an investigation on whether or not a creation of an Integrated Health System between Natividad and the Monterey County clinic system would negatively affect their membership, the people at SEIU 521 thought that an "Integrated Health System" was an IT project, and should not negatively affect the membership - thus making it clear that the 521 people had no earthly idea of what it is that the membership of 521 does for a living. It took only five days for the Monterey County SEIU 521 workers to collect 2800 signatures across several different locations around the county, and stated that "we WILL have a vote." She also stated that by joining NUHW, the Monterey County workers will get for themselves stronger leadership that is member-driven, and that is based on honesty and integrity - "our future is in NUHW."

After these speakers, Sal returned to the rostrum, and began to give us the plan of action for NUHW. More about that in the next chapter...

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