As detailed in a previous article, SEIU’s health care local in California has been locked in a war with NUHW, a union created by former SEIU officers deposed by SEIU leader Andy Stern. NUHW has filed numerous petitions seeking to represent employees that are currently represented by SEIU. Most of these petitions have been blocked by legal maneuvering, but the NLRB allowed an election to proceed among nurses and other professionals at Kaiser facilities in Southern California this past week.
It was a landslide in favor of NUHW. Only 36 nurses voted to stay with SEIU, with 746 voting to affiliate with NUHW. The results were similarly lopsided in the professional units. These results are a significant blow to SEIU and should give NUHW plenty of momentum as they target the remaining 50,000 SEIU members at Kaiser.
NUHW faces the challenge, however, of delivering on its campaign pledges to negotiate better contracts than SEIU. NUHW currently has no members under contract, and they may have a difficult time extracting major concessions in this difficult economic climate.
Meanwhile, a former NLRB official made the mistake of getting involved in the war and ended up in trouble. Fred Feinstein, who was the NLRB’s chief legal officer under President Clinton, wrote a letter to Kaiser employees at SEIU’s behest, asserting that their benefits would be at risk if they left SEIU. Feinstein’s letter was on the letterhead of the University of Maryland, where he is a professor. He neglected, however, to get approval from the university, and he also failed to disclose his six-figure consulting contracts with SEIU, prompting a reprimand from the university.