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by Sadie Crabtree
Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 at 5:19 AM
Faced with third win in three weeks by independent union, SEIU officials try union-busting
Tarzana, Calif.—Environmental services workers at Providence Tarzana Medical Center are voting today in a government-supervised election to form their first union, despite a last-minute effort by SEIU to stop them. SEIU's latest request to block the election was rejected by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) yesterday, but ballots will be held and not be counted until the board resolves a string of frivolous "blocking charges" that SEIU filed to delay the vote.
The 54 workers are employees of Crothall, a subcontractor at the hospital. A majority intend to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), an independent union founded by SEIU reformers that sparked a mass exodus from the troubled union.
"All we want is a voice to stand up for wages and healthcare to support our families," said Sandra Quintanilla, one of the workers. "But SEIU would rather leave us with no union at all than let us join NUHW. They want to destroy NUHW at all costs because they know as long as healthcare workers have a choice, we'll choose NUHW."
In the last three weeks, workers at Los Alamitos Medical Center and The Sequoias-Portola Valley assisted living facility also voted to join NUHW. SEIU was forced to withdraw from the election early at Los Alamitos, and at the Sequoias they failed to even qualify for the ballot.
SEIU has filed "blocking charges" with the NLRB to delay hundreds of elections by SEIU members who want to join NUHW. One of SEIU's charges has been blocking Crothall workers' election at Providence Tarzana since February, when a majority of the non-union workers filed petitions to join NUHW.
When the labor board rejected SEIU's charge last month and scheduled the election, SEIU put their "Service Workers United" (SWU) affiliate on the ballot and tried to compete. Despite sending a dozen SEIU staff to workers' homes and into the hospital to campaign for SWU, they were unable to win majority support and tried to have the election cancelled to avoid another defeat.
Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed "Service Workers United" as a project to increase SEIU's membership by making secret deals with the nation's largest employers to enroll low-wage workers into the union. The employers help SEIU sign workers up for relatively high union dues, and in return SEIU agrees to secret concessions that are not disclosed to members. The very existence of the deals is kept secret from workers. (Wall Street Journal: http://bit.ly/wsj-swu)
SWU has just such a secret agreement with Crothall's parent company, the Compass Group. Ironically, one of the frivolous charges SEIU has used to obstruct the ballot count alleges that workers' chosen union was "assisted by the employer."
The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, Kaiser Permanente facilities, homecare, and nursing homes have petitioned to join NUHW since January 2009.
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