Voting began last week in the long-running battle for union control at Kaiser Permanente facilities throughout California, with some 45,000 workers set to choose -- for the second time in nearly three years -- between rivals Service Employees International Union' United Healthcare Workers West and the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
Earlier this year, the National Labor Relations Board announced that a do-over election will take place from April 5 through May 1 between the two quarreling unions, which first did battle in fall 2010. SEIU-UHW won those elections handedly, with more than 60 percent of the vote, but NUHW challenged the results. Ultimately, the NLRB agreed to reset the election.
Since then, much has transpired for both unions. NUHW struck a merger with the powerful California Nurses Association, which could give the union -- an offshoot of SEIU-UHW -- additional support in the hospitals.
But SEIU won its own victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District upheld a $1.57 million judgment against NUHW and its president, Sal Rosselli, for diverting SEIU resources for its own use in order to form NUHW, including documents and equipment.
With the do-over vote now fully under way, both unions have traded barbs and both said they are confident about winning the decisive Kaiser battle. At stake in the vote is both an estimated $40 million in annual member dues collected and prestige for NUHW or a blow to SEIU-UHW.
In the North Bay, nearly 4,800 employees -- including medical assistants, respiratory therapists, mental health workers, medical records clerks and others -- will be asked to choose NUHW or SEIU-UHW, or no union at all. Ballots will be returned by April 29 and a vote count will begin May 1. In Santa Rosa, about1, 250 employees will take part in in the vote; in San Rafael, about 800; in Napa, about 120; in Fairfield, about 113; in Vacaville, about 550; and in Vallejo about 1,900.