Support for new union endures, even among workers chosen by SEIU to vote first
Oakland, Calif.—Workers at four Bay Area nursing homes owned by Pratap Poddatoori made a strong showing today in an election to change their union from SEIU to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), a member-led union established by healthcare workers after SEIU’s takeover of their local union. The vote was 82 for NUHW, 85 for SEIU, and 4 votes for No Union, meaning neither side won more than half the votes cast. The labor board will schedule a runoff if there is still no majority after the issue of 13 contested ballots is resolved.
Despite coming up a few votes short of a clear victory, workers say they are proud they had a chance to vote and demonstrate their support for NUHW at facilities that SEIU officials claimed were firmly under SEIU’s control. On the eve of the election, SEIU even resorted to cutting a deal with the employer to give certain workers wage increases in order to buy their votes—a violation of federal law that could result in the National Labor Relations Board overturning the election.
“We proved them wrong,” said Linda Brown, a certified nursing assistant at Kyakameena Nursing Home. “SEIU wants to pretend workers don’t support NUHW. But they picked us to vote first, and they still couldn’t win. Our votes show how committed we are to taking back our union.”
Last year, SEIU members at more than 360 healthcare facilities across California petitioned for elections to switch to NUHW, to restore democracy and accountability in their union after Washington, D.C. officials removed thousands of healthcare workers from elected union positions.
Instead of letting workers choose freely, SEIU’s lawyers took advantage of workers’ weak protections under federal labor law, and have manipulated the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process to dodge most of the elections for more than a year.
After a series of landslide victories for NUHW, SEIU asked the labor board in January to proceed with a hand-picked minority of elections where SEIU was most confident they could win. The election at Pratap Poddatoori nursing homes was the first of this group.
NUHW leaders say the strong showing bodes well for upcoming elections for the more than 60,000 workers who will have the chance to vote this year.
“We’ve won most of these elections,” said Angela Glasper, an optical cashier at Kaiser Antioch and an NUHW Vice President. “We haven’t won them all, and we won’t win every single one going forward. But if workers can come within a few votes of victory at the places where SEIU says they’re strongest, then it’s obvious why SEIU is still blocking elections for the majority of workers. They know there is overwhelming support for NUHW.”
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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is California’s fastest-growing union, representing caregivers in every job classification. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and Kaiser Permanente facilities have petitioned for elections to join NUHW and win a strong, democratic voice at work. | NUHW.org/one