Home care workers demanded today that an organization created by former union officials acknowledge that it failed in its attempt to force a new union election. The San Francisco workers say they overwhelmingly want to stay with their current union, Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW).
The failure to even get an election in their home base in San Francisco is a major blow to the former SEIU-UHW officials, who in eight months have failed to attract any members to their struggling organization, which is now facing major internal problems and personnel defections.
"For months we have been telling them to go away - that we are happy with SEIU-UHW - but they kept bothering us and bothering us," said Dedria Smith, a San Francisco Home Care worker for the past eight years. "Now it's time for them to admit they are unwanted, that they didn't come close to getting the signatures they needed, and leave us alone so we can work through our union to protect our wages and healthcare benefits."
Over the past several months, Sal Rosselli, former president of SEIU-UHW, and other former union officials have been trying to collect signed cards for an election to "decertify" the workers' union. The former officials, who in January were removed from office in SEIU-UHW for, among other things, trying to transfer $3 million off the union's books, wanted some 22,000 San Francisco home care workers to switch to a new organization they are calling the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).
Officials of NUHW delivered a box of cards to the Public Employment Relations Board August 31 some 30 minutes before the filing deadline. In the two weeks since it has become clear that they filed far short of the 30 percent of home care workers - some 6,600 signatures - they needed to call an election.
Indications are that about 80 percent of the home care workers who were eligible refused to sign cards for a new union election. The workers were particularly upset when they learned that a top
NUHW official, Paul Kumar, worked behind the scenes to support Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to cut home wages by $2 an hour.
"Since January, more than 35,000 SEIU-UHW members have rejected direct appeals by NUHW to join their organization. Eight months after they were formed, NUHW represents no members, has no contracts, has dwindling resources, and is seeing its staff flee to other jobs," said Rebecca Malberg, who heads SEIU-UHW's home care division.
Places where workers have rejected NUHW include Alameda Hospital, Alameda County Medical Center, Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center in Union City, Fresno County home care, Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, Washington Hospital and Monterey County employees. In addition, petitions filed by NUHW covering nearly 67,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West were ruled invalid by the National Labor Relations Board.