Monday, 15 July 2024

Union pulls out of vote for Sutter Lakeside workers

LAKEPORT – Following months of trading allegations, one of two unions involved in an election that had been scheduled to take place this week for Sutter Lakeside Hospital employees abruptly pulled out on Tuesday.


Between 130 and 140 Sutter Lakeside Hospital employees in a variety of categories – including lab technicians, certified nursing assistants, pharmacy, housekeeping, supply, and medical, surgical and acute care – were expected to cast their ballots Wednesday to either stay with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West or go with the newly formed National Union of Healthcare Workers.


“We are looking forward to our employees having a choice and expressing their will as a group,” Sutter Lakeside Hospital Chief Executive Officer Siri Nelson said on Monday.


But on Tuesday morning NUHW abruptly called off the election. NUHW accused Sutter Lakeside of teaming with SEIU-UHW “to get rid of the strong union that management has been fighting with for years.”


“There's no election. It's over,” said Amanda Cooper, a spokesperson for SEIU-UHW, noting the outcome was a victory for the workers.


While the Sutter Lakeside election was off, elections for more than 500 other employees at three facilities – Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa and two Daly City nursing homes – were continuing as scheduled, according to NUHW spokesperson Sadie Crabtree.


The Daly City polls closed Tuesday evening and Santa Rosa's election is set for Aug. 2, Crabtree said.


NUHW is led by Sal Rosselli, former president of SEIU-UHW, and other former officials of that union who allege that they were ousted from the group.


Cooper said the group of ousted officials “really wreaked some havoc in the organization” on their way out, leaving many contracts open, with SEIU-UHW needing time to get back on its feet.


Sutter Lakeside's employees – represented by SEIU-UHW for more than a decade – ratified their contract this past Feb. 24, said Cooper, with new negotiations set to start in 2012.


“If they go to a new union right now, they would need to renegotiate with management for a new contract,” Cooper said, noting the union worked hard to get the employees a great contract and that putting them back into negotiations would have been a terrible thing to do to the workers.


Even with the election canceled, the accusations between the two groups continued.


Cooper alleged that NUHW has withdrawn “dozens of times” from elections at the last minute. “They only run elections they think they can win,” she said.


Of the 77,000 SEIU-UHW members, 72,000 have elected to stay with the union rather than going with NUHW, said Cooper. “There's a trend here and they're on the losing side of it.”


For its part, NUHW blasted Sutter, calling it “one of the most anti-worker health care employers in the state,” and accusing the nonprofit organization of partnering with SEIU-UHW, which it called “one of the most anti-worker unions.”


“For years, workers have protected patient care at Sutter Lakeside by using pickets and job actions to hold Sutter accountable and stop management's race to the bottom,” NUHW said in a statement issued to Lake County News.


NUHW alleged that when SEIU-UHW took over the union last year, they actually helped Sutter managers fire the most vocal caregivers – which it said was documented in rulings by the National Labor Relations Board but did not involve the Sutter Lakeside facility – and settled a contract with significant takeaways.


“The National Labor Relations Board has said Sutter's preference for SEIU is clear,” NUHW's statement explained.


This spring NUHW – which claimed a series of “landslide” victories in union elections in January – had accused SEIU of blocking elections in 58 nursing home and 19 hospitals – including Sutter Lakeside.


In response, Cooper said that after the ouster of SEIU's former leaders, the National Labor Relations Board agreed that it wasn't a good time to do elections because the union wasn't stable. Now, however, with SEIU stabilized it's pushing forward with elections.


With the Sutter Lakeside election done for now, and with the rhetoric still going back and forth, Cooper suggested, “It's time for this divisiveness to go.”


NUHW reported that it's continuing to pursue elections affecting thousands of workers, including 44,000 in the Kaiser health care system.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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