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After allegedly spending $20 to $40 million in California to fend off a challenge at their flagship employer Kaiser Permanente, the SEIU apparently won its election. But it is not without accusations the SEIU engaged in election misconduct. According to the New York Times:
The Service Employees International Union decisively defeated a rival union that was seeking to represent 43,000 employees who worked for Kaiser Permanente in California, the National Labor Relations Board announced Thursday night after counting the votes.
The labor board said the service employees union received 18,290 votes or 61 percent, to 11,364 for the rival union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which broke away from the S.E.I.U. in early 2009. Another 365 workers voted for no union.
The service employees spent millions of dollars in the campaign, fearing that a victory for its rival would give that union the money and momentum to try and take away tens of thousands of other S.E.I.U. members in California.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers said in a statement Thursday night that it would file objections to the election and would seek a new vote. During the campaign, it claimed that the service employees had intimidated workers and that Kaiser, the largest health care provider in California, had illegally favored the service employees’ effort. The service employees and Kaiser denied those accusations.
On the NUHW’s website, the union has sited a long list of allegations with respect to possible SEIU, Kaiser and even NLRB shenanigans that, if true, may have indeed tainted the outcome:
Today’s outcome was not the overwhelming majority for NUHW that caregivers could have won last year. For 19 months, SEIU employed legal obstruction tactics to deny workers’ right to vote. During that time, Kaiser illegally funded SEIU’s re-election campaign, paying for dozens of Kaiser employees to conduct full-time election campaigning on behalf of the incumbent union, and providing SEIU officials with conference rooms and access to campaign during new employee orientations. [Federal lawsuit: http://bit.ly/kp-charge ]
In April, Kaiser began illegally withholding raises from workers who had already joined NUHW, while SEIU sent hundreds of thousands of mailers, leaflets, and robocalls to other Kaiser employees, threatening that they, too, would lose their raises and other benefits if they joined NUHW. [SEIU mail: http://bit.ly/raises-mail ]
NUHW members filed charges, but the labor board took no effective action until six months later—after the ballots were already in. Just hours after voting ended, the NLRB exposed SEIU’s scare tactic as a lie, when they filed for an order forcing Kaiser to repay more than $1 million in raises to NUHW members. [NLRB legal memo: http://bit.ly/10j-req ]
Somewhat related is the fact that the NLRB only recently has filed a federal complaint against Kaiser Permanente claiming that the health care system unlawfully changed the terms of its contracts in units where the NUHW had previously won elections.
If the NUHW’s allegations against NLRB’s complicity in helping the SEIU are true, it is a dangerous signal for all other unions that the impartiality of the NLRB—even between unions—has been so skewed so as to render the agency useless.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
For more news and views on today’s unions, go to LaborUnionReport.com.