Formerly non-union employees join their 860 unionized co-workers in NUHW
Salinas, California - Sixty-seven formerly non-union employees in the Laboratory, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging Departments at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) are the newest members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Yesterday, hospital administrators accepted a petition in support of unionization signed by a majority of the workers and agreed to recognize their status as union members.
The 67 technical employees join 860 of their co-workers at the hospital who voted by a 2-to-1 margin in May 2010 to leave the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and join NUHW.
With management pursuing implementation of mass layoffs at the hospital, NUHW’s track record of rank-and-file democracy and vigorous advocacy for members’ rights was central to the workers’ decision to join the union.
“I used to be a UAW member in a Chrysler plant outside of Detroit, where we fought for plant occupations and sit-down strikes when management threatened layoffs,” said Bill Lauster, a 27-year Diagnostic Imaging Technologist. “Now we’re seeing the same thing at SVMH. A union worth its salt will fight for the jobs of its members. With NUHW, we can beat back the attack on our jobs like the labor movement once did in its militant past. I’m proud to be part of making that happen.”
In contrast to their experience with SEIU, NUHW members at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital elect their own shop stewards and bargaining team members rather than having them appointed by union staff, and make major decisions regarding their campaign to fight the layoffs through the co-workers they elect to represent them.
Rank-and-file leadership has proved successful: While SEIU allowed management to go through with over 100 layoffs while it was the exclusive bargaining agent for SVMH employees, NUHW members at SVMH have mobilized repeatedly in opposition to the layoffs, twice picketing the hospital, filing legal objections, publishing a newspaper commentary and conducting a candlelight vigil. Through these member-driven actions, NUHW has to date prevented approximately 100 layoffs from being implemented at the hospital.