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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Try this song...it'll get 'ya

It's Jim White w/ Aimee Mann.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

NUHW: "Let us vote!"

{This blog post was originally posted on the blog Calitics}

In the five weeks since SEIU International trusteed California's SEIU-UHW West something enormous has transpired in our state: California's healthcare workers have spoken.

What those workers have said is crystal clear: We choose NUHW.


A majority of the workers from 350 healthcare facilities...representing over 91,000 California healthcare workers...have petitioned to be represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) in just five weeks time. That includes an absolute majority of the 50,000 healthcare workers in the Kaiser network of hospitals and clinics. It also includes homecare workers in Fresno County who collected almost twice the number of the petition signatures necessary to trigger an election that will allow 10,000 homecare workers in Fresno county to secure representation by NUHW. That total also includes numerous workers at smaller facilities like those working at Orange County's Western Medical Center in Anaheim and Coastal Communities Hospital in Santa Ana who gathered petitions from an absolute majority of the 500 healthcare workers at their two facilities.

A remarkable development: 91,000 Healthcare Workers, 350 Facilities, 5 weeks

All told, this dramatic development tells a powerful underlying story that goes beyond describing the initial organizing success of the newly-born National Union of Healthcare Workers, NUHW. This outcome would simply not have been possible outside of the context of thousands of California union members rising up to forge their own democratic response to SEIU's trusteeship. Winning majority petitions from 91,000 workers at 350 facilties in five weeks is the kind of organizing victory that is possible only when members have built a powerful culture of member leadership and activism. Make no mistake, these thousands of petitions were signed one person at a time in workplaces all over our state. This success was won by member leaders reaching out to their fellow healthcare workers in an often hostile environment of intimidation and misinformation created by SEIU.

No one inside or outside the labor movement can doubt that workers who can organize and execute such a petition drive on short notice under such adverse conditions are not also fully empowered to negotiate effectively for their own contracts and for the best interests of their patients.

And that's the point.

A Fundamental Difference of Opinion

California progressives need to understand that at the core of the disagreement between the healthcare workers choosing to join NUHW and Andy Stern's SEIU International is a fundamental difference of opinion about exactly the kind of member-driven organizing that California's healthcare workers have just powerfully demonstrated to the world. Andy Stern has a top-down approach to labor organizing. In fact, Andy's top-down philosophy is part of why he felt he could trustee California's UHW, one of the most progressive and successful locals in the nation, without consequence. Undoubtedly, when Stern trusteed UHW and stripped its staff and elected leaders, he did not anticipate this dramatic grassroots response. Stern's choice to trustee SEIU-UHW West was premised on the idea that California's healthcare workers would not choose to rise up, en masse, reject the removal of their elected leaders and advocate for an election to choose a new union.

Clearly, Stern miscalculated. Stern was not only in error in his appalling strategic choice to trustee SEIU-UHW, he was even more gravely mistaken in underestimating the organizing power and determination of California's healthcare workers to choose to build their own democratic, member-led union.

The tens of thousands of California healthcare workers who have petitioned for elections to join NUHW in 350 facilities not only fundamentally disagree with Stern about what worker empowerment looks like and how that empowerment impacts bargaining outcomes and patient care. Those workers have clearly demonstrated in these last five weeks why top-down, undemocratic leaders are never a match for the power of grassroots democratic organizing.

Supporting California's Healthcare Workers is Common Sense

California's progressives, whether grassroots activists or elected officials and leaders, should pay heed. In the ongoing political battles we face in our state, the empowered organizing exhibited by the member leaders of NUHW is exactly the kind of activism we need. Whether it was opposing Prop 8 or rallying to fight Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's healthcare workers are no strangers to movement politics and California progressives: they have been on the front lines of California progressive activism for years. In fact, for progressives advocating for a host of issues in our state, supporting California's healthcare workers as they petition for elections to form their own, new, vibrant member-led union is common sense.

It may be that for some, the disagreement between California's healthcare workers and Andy Stern presents an inconvenient conflict. That need not be the case. If Andy Stern truly supports the guiding principle of the Employee Free Choice Act...that workers should be free to choose...then he should let California's healthcare workers...who've already chosen NUHW...vote to join NUHW and set aside his lawsuits, intimidation and threats. It may be inconvenient to some, but the truth is that whenever you read about Andy Stern and "free choice," you should remember that the only thing standing in the way of elections for the representation of 91,000 healthcare workers in 350 facilities in our state is Andy Stern himself.

Time and again, healthcare workers in California have put themselves on the line for progressive causes; in the last five weeks a proud and growing majority of them have chosen NUHW. Today those workers have one simple request to make of their fellow Californians and Andy Stern:

Let us vote!


Here's how you can help:

JOIN our mailing list (by going to the sidebar and signing up for updates). TELL your elected California representatives that you support California healthcare workers' freedom of choice to form NUHW through fast, free and fair elections, without harassment and intimidation from their employers or from SEIU. (Enter your zip in box and hit enter.) VISIT our website and DONATE to support our movement. And, most importantly, if you have friends or family who are healthcare workers and would like to join our movement to build a vibrant, member-led National Union of Healthcare Workers, please SPREAD THE WORD.

{Paul Delehanty is a volunteer with the National Union of Healthcare Workers.}