SEIU plans to form new union
Service Employees International Union announced plans Friday to unite 240,000 home care and nursing home workers in California in a single local union. Leaders at SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, a feisty health care local that represents 140,000 long-term care and hospital workers in the state — and would lose almost half of its membership if the new union local is formed — immediately fired off a petition asking for a membership vote on disaffiliation from the international union.
The escalation of a nasty internal rift at SEIU over organizing and negotiating tactics comes at a time of high-stakes contract negotiations and threats of budget cuts in Sacramento that could have a drastic effect on hours and wages for health care workers. With a big clock ticking on the $42 billion state budget deficit, efforts by SEIU to form a new local union and UHW to disconnect from the fold will play out over the next few months.
The international union has tapped executive vice president Eliseo Medina and Michael Holland, an attorney with experience in union reorganizations, to draw up an implementation plan and timeline for the new statewide local within 30 days. A disaffiliation vote could be scheduled as soon as the next 60 days.
The SEIU announcement came after a vote Friday by the executive board to adopt the recommendation of an outside hearing officer and an advisory vote of the union’s membership in California last year.
The jurisdictional changes, started in 2000 by the board and SEIU president Andy Stern, seek to break up political fiefdoms in favor of uniting workers by industry and geography.
Board action means that UHW’s 65,000 long-term care and home care workers will be united in a new local with 140,000 workers from SEIU Local 6434 and 15,500 workers from Local 521.
“We will have a united voice in Sacramento and (Washington) D.C.,” said executive vice president Mary Kay Henry. “Our No. 1 job in is to use the next 30 days to galvanize health care and nursing home workers” to support economic recovery plans in California and Washington, D.C., and to fight budget cuts on both coasts, she said.
The implementation plan will deal with current contract negotiations and make sure there is an orderly transfer process that ensures workers’ interests are protected, she said.
UHW’s letter to Stern reports “widespread and profound opposition within our membership to any efforts to dismember our local union or to take away its rights of democratic governance.”
UHW leaders declined further comment.
Sacramento Business Journal
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