Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NUHW's Q&A Response...

In the light of the recent Q&A document put out by SEIU, the NUHW folks have put out their own Q&A document, which basically takes the SEIU document and grinds it to dust...

Q: What choices will be on the ballot?

There will be three choices on the ballot: SEIU-UHW, NUHW, or No Union. Whichever of the three receives 50% + 1 of the actual votes cast will win the election. If there is no clear majority, there will be a run off between the two highest vote getters.

Q: What happens to our contract when we change unions?

All of the wages, benefits, and other provisions of the contract stay in place until we negotiate a new contract. The NLRB ruled in 2001 that when workers change unions current wages, scheduled contract wage increases and current benefits continue. If we don’t change unions, SEIU-UHW can continue trading away our jobs and benefits and we’ll have no right to vote on changes, as they did with the pension reductions and layoffs.

Q: What will dues be in NUHW?

Our dues will be 25% lower than they were in SEIU-UHW. At NUHW’s founding convention, our professional chapter representatives, along with other delegates voted to reduce our dues since we would no longer be sending part of our dues to SEIU in Washington, D.C.

Q: I read a Q&A written by a law firm that claimed we’ll lose money if we choose NUHW. Are they being truthful?

No. It is a total fabrication. Our existing wages, scheduled wage increases and existing benefits remain intact. Under the law there can be no changes unless we and Kaiser agree to any changes. SEIU’s pamphlet was written by the same attorneys who used legal tricks with the labor board to hold up our election for nine months. The NLRB just ruled that none of SEIU’s charges were valid. SEIU’s attorneys carefully worded the pamphlet to mislead us and create as much fear as possible.

Q: SEIU says Kaiser can change our wages if bargaining reaches an “impasse.” Is that true?

In the more than 25 years of bargaining with Kaiser, the professional chapters have never reached impasse. It is an insult to every one of us for SEIU-UHW to imply that the strongest units at Kaiser could fail to bargain a contract when we have successfully negotiated the best contracts with the same experienced NUHW negotiators and professional chapter leaders on our side.

Futhermore, a “lawful impasse” is a rare situation that can only be certified by the NLRB, and it requires that the employer has bargained in good faith.

Q: When do we start bargaining with Kaiser?

After we elect a rank-and-file bargaining team and meet with the membership to determine improvements we want to make. We will develop proposals and then notify Kaiser that we’re ready to start bargaining.

Q: Do we need a big Union to protect our contract?

SEIU didn’t win our contract. We did. We won together in Local 535, and we won in UHW until the trusteeship, because professional chapter leaders and members were in control. It’s always been about our power and our strength.

By contrast, since SEIU has taken over UHW, they have begun to gut our contract, by removing our elected stewards without a vote, giving away part of our retirement package against our will and without our knowledge, and made a backroom deal to lay off 1,800 of our co-workers. We cannot trust them with our contract.

In NUHW we’ll protect our wages and benefits just like we always have.

Q: What has SEIU done to our pension since they took over in January?

SEIU made a deal with Kaiser to cut our pension, forcing many workers to retire early. SEIU didn’t let us vote on whether we wanted to give up our benefits. Kaiser’s justification was that the stock market had dropped below 8,000, lowering the pension funds’ value. Now the market is back up to 10,400, but SEIU didn’t ask for any reinstatement of benefits when the market recovered. Joining NUHW is the only way to stop SEIU from making more deals like that.

Q: What has SEIU done to our job security since they took over in January?

SEIU eroded our job security rights by negotiating a lay-off agreement with Kaiser behind our backs. They allowed Kaiser to terminate on-calls instead of laying them off with recall rights, allowed Kaiser to move employees within 45 miles of their worksite or face termination, and allowed Kaiser to reduce the health insurance benefits of the employees taking severance. SEIU did not let workers vote before they signed this deal with Kaiser. They even denied the deal existed until NUHW got a copy and shared it with workers.

Q: Is it true that we could end up with no union?

The three options on the ballot are NUHW, SEIU, and No Union, and if there’s no clear majority then there will be a run-off between the top two. The only way we’ll have no union is if a majority of us – 50% plus 1 of those who vote — decide we don’t want a union.

Q: How do we know NUHW will be better than SEIU?

Because we are NUHW. Nearly 100% of the Professional Chapter leadership and officers who have worked side by side with the professionals for the past 25+ years, all support NUHW. Our union is not about the name, it is the people, their vision and commitment. We elect our stewards, bargaining teams, and union officers, and we vote on every agreement with Kaiser. SEIU-UHW has no constitution to protect member’s rights—SEIU officials can agree to anything and they don’t have to let us vote. NUHW is led by the same healthcare workers and experienced negotiators who won current our contract.

Q: What about the rest of Kaiser’s 50,000 union members?

A majority of all Kaiser workers chose NUHW in March, but SEIU delayed their elections with the labor board. Kaiser workers in other units are circulating a petition to join us in NUHW next summer.

Q: Why did SEIU officials from Washington, D.C. take over our union and remove the people we elected?

SEIU ordered our elected leaders to force 65,000 long-term care workers that worked in Northern California into the Southern California Homecare Workers Union, Local 6434, without a vote.

We said that we would only support the move if: 1. The workers got to vote on what union they were part of, and 2. Kaiser professionals and other healthcare workers would always have a direct voice in negotiations with employers, with no backroom deals by SEIU.

SEIU would not accept those terms, and our union was put in trusteeship because our leaders refused to give up our right to vote and our right to negotiate with employers openly and transparently.

To cover up for their actions, SEIU has repeatedly claimed that our local union stole an ever-changing amount of money—sometimes $6 million, sometimes $3 million, and most recently $500,000. No money was stolen.

The best way to face misinformation is to confront it with a serious dose of truth, and we get it here in spades.


  1. Thank you for posting this, but I still don't see anything about what happens to the grievance process until there is a contract. The NUHW Q&A says the NLRB made the rule about not changing wages and benefits but doesn't say anything about that. Do you know if the grievance process is considered one of the provisions that stays in place? If not, then what can we do if changes are made, or if Kaiser does something like lay people off claiming that they have no choice because they are broke? How would we fight that?

  2. Anon - refer to the response of the second question: "All of the wages, benefits, and other provisions of the contract stay in place until we negotiate a new contract. The NLRB ruled in 2001 that when workers change unions current wages, scheduled contract wage increases and current benefits continue." IANAL, but that seems pretty cut-and-dried to me.

    Also, from the response to question #5: "Futhermore, a “lawful impasse” is a rare situation that can only be certified by the NLRB, and it requires that the employer has bargained in good faith." That also is consistent with history, and falls way outside of the scope of fearmongering that Zombie UHW has tumbled to in the last six months.


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