3/28/08

Protecting democracy from Andy Stern

Hundreds of determined members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers - West (UHW) will gather at their union headquarters (560 Thomas L. Berkley Way) Thursday at 4:00 p.m. to express outrage at escalating attempts by SEIU's Washington officials to subvert democracy, centralize power and silence their voices in relationships with employers. The healthcare workers will declare their intention to retain control of their local union and their full support for UHW's elected leaders.

A recent letter from SEIU President Andy Stern, which makes false allegations against UHW's officers and sets the groundwork for a takeover, is the most recent example in a long list of actions designed to chill internal dissent, marginalize political opposition and thwart union democracy by retaliating against vocal critics of his top-down, corporate leadership style and centralization of power far away from the influence of rank-and-file workers.

UHW members are particularly outraged because this politically motivated interference threatens to undo years of hard work in lining up the expiration dates of more than 200 contracts covering 80,000 workers at hospitals and long term care facilities across the state, as well as organizing campaigns to organize tens of thousands of workers throughout California.

"We've sacrificed our blood, sweat and tears building this union. Now we're on the verge of winning unprecedented improvements and SEIU is betraying us by undermining our power," said Ruby Guzman, a certified nursing assistant at Creekside Healthcare Center in San Pablo.

SEIU's actions have included misusing member dues to engage in a disinformation campaign about UHW, breaching member confidentiality, colluding with nursing home operators to sabotage UHW's collective bargaining efforts and falsely claiming that UHW coordinated with the California Nurses Association to derail its organizing efforts in Ohio, according to UHW.

"We've spent years building one of the strongest and most democratic unions in the nation," said Angela Glasper, an optical receptionist at Kaiser Hospital in Martinez. "We've struggled together, celebrated together, organized thousands of healthcare workers and achieved some of the strongest contracts in the country together. Andy Stern can't divide us. We won't let him."

UHW, the fastest growing local union in America over the past decade, has become one of the largest and most effective local unions by prioritizing the role of members in decision-making and insisting that workers have a direct role in all aspects of their union. These values have been instrumental in establishing unprecedented standards for healthcare workers throughout California.

(prnewswire.com)

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