NUHW and SEIU-UHW Battle for 45,000 Kaiser Workers

The longstanding battle between the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and SEIU-United Health Care Workers-West (SEIU-UHW) has reached its final pre-election stages.  As the two unions trade accusations regarding delays in scheduling an election by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), approximately 45,000 California healthcare workers await their opportunity to jump ship to join NUHW, or to remain represented by SEIU-UHW.

After more than a year of delays caused by unfair labor practice charges and countercharges, the NLRB now seeks agreement from the two unions on the details of the election.  Continuing the union-said, union-said nature of the battle to date, SEIU-UHW now accuses NUHW of delaying the process by refusing to sign the election agreement.  NUHW counters that the NLRB does not need its approval to direct an election

In recent weeks, SEIU-UHW won a major battle for the hearts (and the membership dollars) of Kaiser employees by successfully concluding and ratifying a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the employees at issue.  The deal calls for wage increases of 9% over the life the contract, which lasts through 2013.

Normally, the existence of a ratified CBA will act as a bar to a rival union filing a petition.  NUHW’s petition, however, far pre-dated the signing of the new Kaiser/SEIU-UHW deal, so the NLRB is compelled to process the petition and move towards an election.  Were NUHW to ultimately prevail, the existing CBA between SEIU-UHW and Kaiser would be nullified. 

SEIU-UHW is campaigning on the contract terms it won during negotiations, arguing that voting for NUHW would result in Kaiser workers having to renegotiate the terms of its CBA.  SEIU-UHW also claims that its contract was ratified with 94% of the vote.  However, only those who actually voted are counted in the ratification numbers.  Because NUHW supporters may have stayed home during ratification, it remains unclear how much support each union enjoys heading into the seemingly-imminent election.

This entry was written by Robert Hennessy

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.