Friday, August 19, 2011

Federal administrative law judge says Kaiser’s unfair labor practices figured as silent, menacing reminders

Kaiser Roseville Workers to Vote in Union Election Re-do
Administrative judge overturned the fall 2010 vote.
By Seth Sandronsky
Roseville Patch
Aug. 19, 2011

The National Labor Relations Board has canceled the union election results last fall of 43,000 Kaiser Permanente service-technical employees across California, including 989 workers at Kaiser Permanente Roseville. In that statewide vote, Kaiser workers, 61 percent to 39 percent, chose to stay with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - United Healthcare Workers West instead of joining the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

However, in a 34-page decision, federal Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke ruled that SEIU violated workers’ rights on multiple counts. In one instance of “improper election conduct,” SEIU said that workers would have to give-away agreed-to wage and benefits gains if they voted for NUHW, action that Kaiser did in fact take, propelling a federal court to rule that the non-profit HMO repay with interest the affected employees.

“Kaiser’s ULPs [unfair labor practices] figured as silent, menacing reminders that Kaiser not only could, but already had, unilaterally withheld benefits when other employees had chosen to be represented by NUHW,” Parke wrote.

There are a total of 3,050 full-time Kaiser employees and 317 full-time doctors working at the Roseville facility, said Edwin Garcia, a Kaiser Roseville spokesman.

Last fall’s Kaiser election was the biggest in the NLRB’s 70-year history.

Elizabeth Brennan, a spokesperson for SEIU-UHW, said Kaiser has maintained all regular raises, health care and retirement benefits of the SEIU-UHW members involved in the union election last September through October.

“Kaiser workers will make a decision based on what’s best for their livelihoods, and that is to stay with SEIU-UHW,” Brennan said.

SEIU’s take-over, or trusteeship, of UHW in late January 2009, a 150,000-member California local affiliate of the national union, gave birth to the NUHW.

Lisa Engles, 44, is a medical assistant at Kaiser Roseville, and a Roseville resident. She said her experience during the fall 2010 Kaiser election was an “uphill battle” for the NUHW.

SEIU had more resources available, and easier access to workers versus that for NUHW, making the election a “David and Goliath type of thing,” Engles said. However in Roseville, most workers voted for the NUHW, according to her.

“This is huge” that the NLRB overturned last year’s Kaiser union election, an exception to the federal labor board’s usual practice, Engles said. The NLRB is set to complete the re-run vote by the end of September, which “doesn’t give us a lot of time" to educate workers who will vote for the second time in a year for a union to represent them, she said...

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