A judge has ruled that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) improperly benefited from an employer threatening workers with loss of raises in a 2010 election in California that pitted it against a breakaway SEIU local. The election was to determine whether 43,500 Kaiser Permanente workers were to be represented by SEIU, the former SEIU affiliate, or no union. The Washington Post‘s Alec MacGillis reports:
Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke ruled that Kaiser had improperly withheld pay raises from workers in Southern California who had switched to the new union and that SEIU had then improperly threatened the workers voting in the Northern California election that they, too, could have raises denied if they made the switch.
Leaders of the new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), decided to split from SEIU in response to what they perceived as a power grab by the SEIU national headquarters, then under the leadership of Andy Stern.
Stern sought to consolidate several locals into a handful of giant mega-locals, a strategy that led to a series of embarrassing setbacks for the SEIU, including the split that created the breakaway NUHW and a corruption scandal in Los Angeles.
MacGillis further states:
Leaders of the breakaway union noted that the ruling came at the same time as SEIU and other unions are arguing in favor of new rules proposed by the labor relations board to reduce employer coercion against workers before union elections.
However, for NUHW to portray this incident as a case of employer intimidation is disingenuous. Kaiser’s conduct may hardly be exemplary, but its real fight was with SEIU, which has a history of making deals with employers without members’ input, and has tried to intimidate NUHW through strong-arm tactics ever since it became an independent union.