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    Saturday
    Jan052013

    Bureau of National Affairs: NUHW Affiliates With California Nurses To Jointly Fight Kaiser, Sutter, and SEIU-UHW

    NUHW Affiliates With California Nurses
    To Jointly Fight Kaiser, Sutter, and SEIU-UHW

    By Joyce E. Cutler, Bureau of National Affairs

    SAN FRANCISCO—The independent National Union of Healthcare Workers has affiliated with the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United with the goal of restoring worker and patient safety standards, the unions announced Jan. 3.

    Speakers at a news conference at CNA headquarters in Oakland, Calif., to announce the affiliation, said the two unions have common enemies—United Healthcare Workers West, a local of the Service Employees International Union; Kaiser Permanente; and Sutter Health.

    “This is a significant affiliation that should send an unmistakable message to California’s hospital industry,” CNA President Deborah Burger said at the press conference. “California’s RNs now joined by other health care hospital workers will not accept the outrageous and unwarranted attacks on patient care protections and our own contract standards, conditions, and our livelihood.”

    The 10,000-member NUHW joins with the 85,000-member CNA as an official thorn in the side of hospital managers and the industry.

    “We’re pooling our power to stand up to the [California] Hospital Association and their members like Sutter and Kaiser and in Sacramento to stand up to the Hospital Association’s attempts to weaken the nurse-to-patient ratios,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli told BNA.

    Click to read more ...

    Saturday
    Jan052013

    WSJ: Health-Care Unions Will Join Forces 

    By Kris Maher, the Wall Street Journal

    The nation’s largest nurses union said Thursday it would team up with a union representing other health-care workers, seeking to make the combined entity the dominant labor group in the fast-growing health-care sector.

    The groups’ decision to join forces intensifies their rivalry with the powerful Service Employees International Union.

    The California Nurses Association and the National Union of Healthcare Workers said the affiliation was aimed at preventing hospital chains from scaling back benefits for employees and fighting for workplace standards needed to improve patient care.

    But the combined unions are also expected to aggressively campaign against the SEIU in organizing union drives, including one of the biggest of the year at health-care giant Kaiser Permanente, with 43,000 workers at stake. The workers, represented by the SEIU, will vote on whether to remain with that union or join the strengthened NUHW.

    “Our members are all there for them,” said Deborah Burger, co-president of the nurses union. Under the agreement, the health-care workers union will largely keep its autonomy, but its members will pay dues to the nurses union.

    The California Nurses Association, which represents 85,000 nurses in the state, also belongs to National Nurses United, an umbrella group with 100,000 additional members in states including Massachusetts, Michigan, Florida and Texas.

    [image]

    Both the NUHW and the SEIU represent health-care workers including nurses’ aides, laboratory technicians, office staff and support staff such as food-service workers. The SEIU also includes some nurses—about 85,000 of its two million members.

    Ms. Burger said the nurses union chose to work with the NUHW, which represents 10,000 health-care workers, and challenge the SEIU for members, saying the SEIU has been driving down benefits at hospital chains by agreeing to concessions, doing “everything but climb into bed with the employers” to create “a faux union.”

    Steve Trossman, a spokesman for the SEIU, denied those charges and said unions shouldn’t be fighting with each other over workers at a time when all of organized labor is under siege nationally. “We’re going to spend millions, and they’re going to spend millions.…In the meantime, we’re losing members all across the country,” Mr. Trossman said.

    Sal Rosselli, a former SEIU official who now heads the NUHW, said teaming up with the nurses union “will give us the resources to be much more effective.”

    Kaiser Permanente is “entirely neutral” in the dispute between the NUHW and the SEIU, said John Nelson, a company spokesman. He denied a claim by the NUHW that the company had given support that enabled the SEIU to win an election for the 43,000 workers in 2010, which was challenged in court. “We have not inappropriately supported or assisted either union, nor will we do so in the future,” Mr. Nelson said. A judge investigating the NUHW claims against the company dismissed them.

    The National Labor Relations Board ordered another election after the judge found the SEIU had threatened workers, saying they would be denied previously bargained wages increases if the NUHW won. Mr. Trossman said the SEIU didn’t believe the judge’s decision was accurate but chose not to challenge it.

    Some labor experts said the combined unions would be the first dedicated to representing various health-care workers, potentially giving them a leg up in drives over the SEIU. The affiliation “can lead to an increase in organizing because you have two of the more militant organizing groups coming together,” said Michael Lotito, a San Francisco-based attorney with Littler Mendelson who represents employers during union drives.

    Wall Street Journal

    Friday
    Oct262012

    Big Profits and More Concessions

    By Carl Finamore

    Posted at Beyond Chron and Counterpunch.

    California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) has four medical campuses in San Francisco and is the city’s second largest private employer with 6000 employees and “over 1500 doctors and allied health practitioners.” It is owned by Sutter Health, a huge healthcare provider operating mostly in northern California.

    This vast hospital complex of money and power is actually registered as a “non-profit” where it receives lucrative tax perks as long as it upholds its state charter of “serving the public good.”

    But here is where it gets sticky.

    CPMC enjoyed over 200 million dollars in profits last year and recorded an astounding 20 percent profit rate. Critics are quick to point out that this is totally out of whack even for private hospitals where the national profit rate is but three percent.

    And, against this backdrop, Sutter is still demanding concessions from its employees. And that’s the rub felt by 750 members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

    Helen York has worked 45 years at CPMC as a cashier in food service. She told me that “we have been negotiating over a year and they are still insisting on reducing our health plan options, eliminating shift pay differential and cutting some of our other benefits that we have enjoyed for decades. Why are they messing with us when they are regularly making such big profits?”

    Not so, said Kathie Graham, CPMC communications director. “CPMC is in the middle of contract negotiations with NUHW, which was elected last year …replacing SEIU. While we are committed to taking care of our employees, we also must take steps to make our services more affordable for our patients.

    “To prepare for the future, we are taking steps throughout the organization to reduce our costs while maintaining or enhancing quality. We have also concluded that our pay and benefits should be simplified and more consistent throughout the organization.”

    NUHW vice president John Borsos was quick to respond in my interview.

    “Referring to wages and benefits being simplified and consistent is a reference to the concessions already conceded by SEIU-UHW before they were ousted by CPMC workers who voted for NUHW last year. In fact, SEIU granted concessions in every single one of its California hospital bargaining negotiations of 2010 and 2012, including at around ten Sutter hospitals.

    “To be clear, not one single contract has been settled by SEIU-UHW without concessions; not since the international SEIU took over the local in early 2009 and kicked out the original elected 100-member executive board and dozens of stewards who then became the founding core of NUHW a few months later.

    “For example, while still representing workers at CPMC, SEIU agreed to remove long-standing, strong job-protection contract language. But, at a recent bargaining session, our newly elected member-led team got that ‘no contracting out’ language reinstated. This was a big victory and a strong signal to Sutter that NUHW members have a firm ‘no-concession’ bargaining stance.

    “SEIU has conceded so regularly in the last several years that hospital management, and not only at Sutter, expects workers to give concessions, even when they are making enormous profits. No way!”

    Proud History of Unionism at CPMC

    NUHW workers conducting an informational picket at CPMC’s Pacific campus on October 24 told me that Sutter, traditionally, has been the worst employer in the industry. They pointed to a 60-day strike in 2005 at CPMC as an indication of management intransigence at the bargaining table. Nonetheless, these workers emphasized, we in SEIU-UHW at the time never agreed to concessions at Sutter or anywhere else.

    “This has been our bargaining stance for over 60 years,’ Borsos added, “since San Francisco General hospital workers formed the nation’s first healthcare union shortly after the 1934 Longshore General Strike.

    “Even before Sutter took ownership, CPMC hospitals were the core of militant unionism going back to the 1930s. They were the foundation of the union and were among the first collective bargaining agreements in the country negotiated by the original Local 250 some 60 years ago that regularly set contract standards for other hospitals here and throughout the country.”

    And, today, Borsos continued, “we have absolutely no interest in going backwards, especially when there is no economic justification. “

    Sutter’s History-Hard Bargaining & High Pricing

    The enormous profits of the CPMC medical complex begs the question – how were profits of over 200 million dollars made last year?

    One answer comes from California attorney general Kamala Harris who recently subpoenaed Sutter Health, CPMC’s owner, for possible anti-trust pricing. This is not the first time.

    The August 3, 2006 Sacramento Business Journal reported that “Sutter Health has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged price-gouging of patients without insurance, potentially costing the Sacramento-based health system hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    In addition, Fred Seavey, NUHW research director, informed me that “a San Francisco law firm recently filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of consumers claiming violations of national and state anti-trust laws where Sutter is alleged to have, once again, unnecessarily boosted prices for consumers.”

    Sutter has long been plagued by such criticisms which are compounded by the fact that they have the city’s lowest rate of providing charity care to low-income patients.

    None of these actions seem consistent with their non-profit status nor, community healthcare activists point out, with their medical mission.

    So, we see at CPMC a clash of two forces, each with their own story. It’s never easy to overcome money and power but history seems to be on the side of NUHW in this case.

    Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

    Friday
    Sep072012

    Daily Cal: Alta Bates medical workers looking to switch labor unions

    Pooja Mhatre, Berkeley Daily Cal

    Workers at the Alta Bates Medical Summit Center in Berkeley submitted a petition Tuesday requesting a switch in labor unions, in what they deem an effort to better protect their contracts and gain more democratic representation.

    The petition — which has been signed by more than 1,200 hospital workers — calls for an election within the hospital to switch from Service Employees International Union, or SEIU Local UHW, to the recently created National Union for Healthcare Workers, or NUHW.

    In total, Alta Bates Summit has more than 4,700 employees, said Carolyn Kemp, director of public relations at Alta Bates, in an email.

    Last year, medical center employees voted to continue to be represented by SEIU. In late August of this year, an overwhelming majority of these SEIU-represented employees ratified a new contract with the hospital, she said.

    “The new three year contract provides continued competitive wage increases and maintains a generous health, pension and other benefits,” Kemp said in the email.

    NUHW secretary-treasurer John Borsos said the proposed switch to NUHW comes from a growing frustration among employees over a seeming lack of union representation — which has led to contract violations and an inability to communicate with employers.

    As of press time, SEIU could not be reached for comment.

    In July, hospital nurses went on strike to oppose proposed reductions to their contracts. Though nurses and workers are represented by different unions, they face similar issues and want their demands to be heard, said Oscar Medina, a transporter at the hospital who signed the petition.

    “When the nurses go out to strike, we help them, because they are also supporters of NUHW, and we all want to be united,” Medina said.

    According to Borsos, the current contract between Alta Bates and its employees prohibits the hospital from subcontracting work, which involves outsourcing to workers outside the union, though this would save the hospital money.

    Medina said that despite this agreement, the hospital has subcontracted work in the past, causing 85 people to lose their jobs.

    “(SEIU) knew of this years ago and chose to do nothing about it,” Medina said. “They are supposed to protect employees.”

    Furthermore, Medina claims the hospital administration terminated workers for reasons not laid out in their contracts. The SEIU was ineffective when these former employees asked for investigatory interviews and union representation, he said.

    NUHW, currently representing about 10,000 workers, was founded in 2009 when SEIU faced internal dispute over similar issues of representation, Borsos said.

    “NUHW would actually give us a voice,” Medina said. “We can elect people to be our stewards who would actually show up and not disappear on us.”

    Thursday
    Aug232012

    LA Times: Hospital leader under fire for paying daughter to drive him

    Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2012

    On his receipts, the acting director of a Central Coast public hospital district appeared to be paying a luxury car service to ferry him to and from the airport as part of his weekly commute.

    But Lowell Johnson, interim chief executive at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, was actually paying his daughter for those rides, $50 each way. He then turned in receipts to the hospital district labeled “Airport Town Car.” The district paid him nearly $4,000 in reimbursements for the trips during his first 12 months on the job, according to records reviewed by The Times.

    Hospital district officials said they were unaware of the payments to Johnson’s daughter until earlier this week but see no problem with it. They noted that his contract grants him paid car service and that the board doesn’t monitor who drives him.

    Johnson also said there was nothing wrong with the reimbursements. He said he did not need to inform the hospital’s board that he had hired his daughter as a driver because he remained under his limit of $1,500 in travel expenses each week. He also receives $10,000 each week in salary.

    “In my mind, there’s absolutely no issue with it,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing here.”

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    Aug062012

    The New Republic: The Inscrutable Andy Stern, In His Own Defense

    By Alec MacGillis, TNR

    At a time when unions hold an ever-diminishing role in American life, Andy Stern commanded a remarkably high profile. To his supporters, the longtime head of the Service Employees International Union was the savior of organized labor, who had found a way to expand the ranks of his union when almost every other one in the private sector was shrinking. To his detractors on the left, he was a self-promoter who was growing his union’s membership by cutting pro-management deals with employers or with ethically dubious elected officials such as Illinois’ Rod Blagojevich, all while waging costly internecine fights within the labor movement. To his detractors on the right, he was a dangerous radical who was paying a suspiciously high number of visits to the Obama White House.

    Stern further confused the picture following his retirement from SEIU in 2010. He served on the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, where he was putatively representing the liberal wing of the spectrum, but where he caused agita among liberal skeptics with, among other things, his talk of investing part of the Social Security trust fund in the stock market. He voted against the commission’s final recommendations, but is going to be joining up with the deficit-reduction cause again next month, taking part in a nationwide bus tour organized by the Peterson Foundation to warn Americans about the coming fiscal apocalypse. More curiously, in December 2011, Stern wrote an eye-catching op-ed in the Wall Street Journal declaring that it was time for the United States to drop free-market capitalism in exchange for China’s “superior economic model.”

    Meanwhile, though, Stern has also been doing well for himself under good old American-style capitalism.

    Click to read more ...

    Friday
    Aug032012

    Working In These Times: Andy Stern Responds to Critics of His Post-SEIU Career

    By Mike Elk, Working In These Times

    Former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern has long faced criticism from dissidents within his own union that he sold out workers in order to accommodate corporate America. His critics say they have been proven right by Stern’s career moves since he left SEIU in 2010. In particular, they point to Stern taking two positions associated with a private equity titan as well as joining the board of an organization that is alleged to have trained school superintendents to combat teachers’ unions.  

    Stern recently accepted a paid position on the board of directors of the biochemical company SIGA, owned by billionaire Ron Perelman’s private equity firm MacAndrews & Forbes. Stern also recently accepted an endowed position at Columbia University as a Ronald O. Perelman Senior Fellow at the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy. During his tenure at SEIU, Stern faced criticsim for cutting a 2006 deal with AlliedBarton, also owned by Perelman, in which SEIU agreed to abandon an organizing drive of an estimated 10,000 security guards in exchange for employer neutrality in organizing AlliedBarton security guards elsewhere.  

    Click to read more ...

    Thursday
    Aug022012

    Wall Street Journal: Ex-Leader Union Leader Is Charged With Fraud

    By Kris Maher, Wall Street Journal

    A former rising star within the Service Employees International Union has been charged with bilking his ex-employer, one of the nation’s most powerful labor groups.

    Tyrone Freeman, 42 years old, who once led a large Los Angeles-based local representing low-wage health-care workers, was indicted Tuesday on 15 criminal counts, including mail fraud and the embezzlement of $100,000.

    Mr. Freeman is accused of diverting union funds in $2,500 monthly payments in 2007 and 2008. The federal grand jury that indicted Mr. Freeman late Tuesday said he also improperly took $17,000 from a low-income-housing nonprofit group and used a union credit card to pay $8,000 toward his Hawaii wedding.

    The charges cap a four-year probe by the Labor Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Freeman, who now lives in Pittsburgh and has recently worked as a business consultant, faces a maximum sentence of more than 200 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

    His attorney, Michael Zweiback, said Mr. Freeman is innocent of all charges and will plead not guilty at an arraignment scheduled for Sept. 24 in federal district court in Los Angeles. “When the truth comes out at trial, it will be abundantly clear that he acted appropriately at all times,” Mr. Zweiback said.

    Abel Salinas, the Labor Department’s special agent in charge of the Los Angeles regional office, said the indictment demonstrates the federal government’s “commitment to investigating allegations of labor racketeering in our nation’s unions.”

    In June, Mr. Freeman’s wife, Pilar Planells, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failure to file a 2008 tax return in connection with more than $540,000 in consulting fees her video production company earned that year from the local her husband led.

    Mr. Freeman was chief of SEIU Local 6434, known as United Long Term Care Workers, or ULTCW, which now represents 180,000 workers who provide health care to the elderly and disabled in nursing homes and private residences. He had been appointed to the post by former SEIU President Andy Stern, who retired in 2010.

    “The members of SEIU ULTCW are pleased that justice is being served,” Mr. Freeman’s former local said.

    The SEIU dismissed Mr. Freeman in 2008 and barred him for life from the union. In 2009, the SEIU sued him in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking to recover more than $1.1 million in union funds it said he misspent. The funds allegedly include $13,000 paid to the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills for $175 glasses of cognac, among other expenses.

    Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, declined to comment on whether any other SEIU officials could be charged, citing a continuing investigation.

    Monday
    Jul022012

    San Francisco Chronicle: Leaked financial documents threaten CPMC deal

    John Cote, SF Chronicle

    Mayor Ed Lee’s deal with California Pacific Medical Center on a $2.5 billion overhaul of their medical facilities in the city, including building two new hospitals, took a new hit Monday after an anonymous whistleblower released internal financial documents that cast doubt on key pillars of the deal.

    Lee has heralded the agreement, which includes building a 555-bed hospital at the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard, as a jobs creator that will ensure the city’s medical future.

    The documents, though, show that the Sutter Health-affiliated medical group contemplated just days before the deal was announced in March the possibility of eliminating 379-full time positions at California Pacific Medical Center by 2018 to achieve $63 million in savings, an amount that grows to $70 million by 2022.

    The documents, which include long-term financial projections for Sutter Health’s West Bay Region, also indicate that California Pacific Medical Center’s charity care commitment, which has clauses tying it to financial performance, could be substantially less than the called for in the deal.

    Click to read more ...

    Tuesday
    Jun192012

    California’s Health Care Wars

    Counterpunch, Cal Winslow

    by CAL WINSLOW

    California’s healthcare workers’ wars continue, in the streets, in collective bargaining and in the courts, at a level of conflict not often matched in the US today. More, in these California conflicts, healthcare workers and their unions are as often as not on the offensive.

    The new National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) has struck the huge healthcare chain Kaiser Permanente four times now in the past year, twice with support from California Nurses Association (CNA-NNU) RNs. These two walk-outs (in September 2011 and January 2012), involving 20,000 strikers plus each, rank as the largest but one (the Verizon strike) on the table of recent strikes. At the same time, this spring,  the NUHW has won first contracts – with wage increases and no concessions – at  hospitals including Keck Medical Center, University of Southern California; Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco; Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital; the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital; and Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo.

    Click to read more ...

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