SEIU vs "an unusually militant union"

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petey
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Mar 13 2008 13:34
SEIU vs "an unusually militant union"

whatever else, it presents organizing issues starkly

Quote:
The Service Employees International Union was brimming with confidence about unionizing 8,300 workers at nine Ohio hospitals through elections that were scheduled for this Wednesday and Friday. But then organizers from a rival union, the California Nurses Association, swept into town, buttonholing workers and maneuvering their way into hospital wards, to press the workers to vote not to join the S.E.I.U.

...

The California Nurses Association, an unusually militant union that is seeking to expand nationwide, said it dispatched organizers to Ohio because in its view the unionization efforts were part of a sweetheart deal.

...

Having seen many employers mount fierce campaigns against unionization, the service employees had reached an unusual deal with Catholic Healthcare Partners, to increase its chances of winning a unionization election. Catholic Healthcare and the union promised to campaign civilly and not mount angry all-out efforts against each other.

Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the nurses association, condemned this agreement. She called it “a rigged scam” in which the service employees union would bargain only half-heartedly if it won the vote.

“This was a top-down deal between an employer and a hand-picked union,” Ms. DeMoro said. “There was a gag order on everyone, and as a result this was a banana republic election.”

...

Dave Regan, president of a service employees’ local representing 35,000 health care workers in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, called the nurses union’s efforts immoral and despicable.

“Their conduct is indistinguishable from that of the most vicious anti-union employers,” Mr. Regan said. “It violates every principle of unionism. Real people are worse off today as a result of their behavior.”

link

Catch 22
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Mar 13 2008 14:45

Oh the CNA, hope they have success in their organizing drives. Time couldn't be better for organizing nursing staff's, no one in their right mind would dare fire a nurse these days, even for union activity. They're too high in demand.

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OliverTwister
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Mar 13 2008 19:23
Quote:
Dave Regan, president of a service employees’ local representing 35,000 health care workers in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, called the nurses union’s efforts immoral and despicable.

“Their conduct is indistinguishable from that of the most vicious anti-union employers,” Mr. Regan said. “It violates every principle of unionism. Real people are worse off today as a result of their behavior.

Now how's he gonna get that house in the hamptons?

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thugarchist
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Mar 13 2008 22:36
OliverTwister wrote:
Quote:
Dave Regan, president of a service employees’ local representing 35,000 health care workers in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, called the nurses union’s efforts immoral and despicable.

“Their conduct is indistinguishable from that of the most vicious anti-union employers,” Mr. Regan said. “It violates every principle of unionism. Real people are worse off today as a result of their behavior.

Now how's he gonna get that house in the hamptons?

Everytime I decide I actually can stand you, you help me out by reminding me how offtrack I am.

mikus
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Mar 14 2008 00:17
Catch 22 wrote:
Oh the CNA, hope they have success in their organizing drives. Time couldn't be better for organizing nursing staff's, no one in their right mind would dare fire a nurse these days, even for union activity. They're too high in demand.

Yeah, my sister just started working as a nurse... I think I might go into the field too. The demand for nurses is insane.

mikus
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Mar 14 2008 00:17

Oh and does anyone know anything about CNA? Like I said, my sister is in the industry and I'm thinking of going in myself...

onthemarch
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Mar 14 2008 01:46

So..... this "unusually militant" craft union flew a shitload of organizers into Ohio to bust an industrial healthcare union by putting out a bunch of inaccurate information about an election procedure agreement that workers spent years fighting for and telling RNs that skilled workers like them shouldn't be in a union with hospital housekeepers and dietary workers (read: African Americans and immigrants). All in a union drive that they had zero history with.

Unusually militant indeed...

(Skilled) Workers of the world, unite (into separate unions based on education and occupation)!
Viva la revolucion!

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thugarchist
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Mar 14 2008 01:53
onthemarch wrote:
So..... this "unusually militant" craft union flew a shitload of organizers into Ohio to bust an industrial healthcare union by putting out a bunch of inaccurate information about an election procedure agreement that workers spent years fighting for and telling RNs that skilled workers like them shouldn't be in a union with hospital housekeepers and dietary workers (read: African Americans and immigrants). All in a union drive that they had zero history with.

Unusually militant indeed...

(Skilled) Workers of the world, unite (into separate unions based on education and occupation)!
Viva la revolucion!

Seriously. say what you want about big bad business union SEIU but SEIU rejects craft unionism and rejects the seperation of workers by class sub-stratification. CNA are a bunch of scumbags and have a fascinatingly close relationship to Sal Roselli at UHW. Interesting timing on all this activity from CNA. 1 raid, 3 decert campaigns, and this ohio bullshit all in the last few months... same amount of time Sal's been openly at war with his own union.

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MJ
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Mar 14 2008 05:04
thugarchist wrote:
Seriously. say what you want about big bad business union SEIU but SEIU rejects craft unionism and rejects the seperation of workers by class sub-stratification.

buuuuut I dont get it, it says that they're militant!

thugarchist wrote:
1 raid, 3 decert campaigns, and this ohio bullshit all in the last few months...

finally a union that takes a firm class line outside and against the unions! i've been waiting 60 years for this day.

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jef costello
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Mar 14 2008 13:38

Could someone explain clearly what is going on?

ftony
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Mar 14 2008 13:59

short version: SEIU is going for recognition deal with a bunch of hospitals. CNA raids the fuck out of their campaign, pretty much just for the craic

onthemarch
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Mar 14 2008 14:27

Yeah, I'd say the spirit of that is right. Not a recognition deal though - an agreement was made on a fair election process. And it's the kind of "deal" that you make after beating on someone for a few years until they finally give you most of what you want. Another clarification is that calling what the CNA did raiding might be a little off. There hasn't been any effort to get the workers into CNA. Instead, they came in encouraging a "no union" vote. Not so much raiding as pure and simple union busting.

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MJ
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Mar 14 2008 15:37

Plus you left out the parts where they co-opted a rank-and-file-ist vocabulary while doing so, and where Oliver thinks it's great that the campaign might fail as a result of their actions.

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thugarchist
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Mar 15 2008 01:16
MJ wrote:
Plus you left out the parts where they co-opted a rank-and-file-ist vocabulary while doing so, and where Oliver thinks it's great that the campaign might fail as a result of their actions.

My favorite part of CNA campaigns is when they jump into a industrial model hospital campaign at the end after years of committee work and try to convince the nurses that they're professionals and shouldn't be in a union with LPNs, CNAs, dietary workers, environmental aids, etc. They do particluarly well when the demographics are white nurses vs the brown people. Awesome stuff. I'm glad anarchists have found a mainstream union we can finally support.

pgh2a
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Mar 15 2008 02:10

I think SEIU's strategy is interesting, and I obviously agree with what thugarchist is saying about the need for a more industrial union, which CNA does not appear to support, even based just on their name.

SEIU stated theory stated simply - build union density first, then bargain from a greater position of power.

Problem in actual practice could be:

1) you don't get a militant membership without struggle;
2) the essentially and ADMITTEDLY (I have heard several SEIU organiziers admit to this) sweetheart deals don't always proceed further
3) creates a staff-driven, top-down "we know best" approach that consciously excludes more militant workers from bargaining or organizing committee work
4) leads to backroom dealings between union staffers and the boss, sending the wrong signal to workers
5) is used as an excuse for top-down negotiated sweetheart deals

I know SEIU has separate bargaining units at the same hospital facilities as well. Not because they want it that way, but because they have had difficulties getting nurses to see themselves as part of the same unit as janitors, for example. Also, current labor law does not make this any easier.

petey
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Mar 15 2008 02:49
pghwob wrote:

Problem in actual practice could be:

1) you don't get a militant membership without struggle;
2) the essentially and ADMITTEDLY (I have heard several SEIU organiziers admit to this) sweetheart deals don't always proceed further
3) creates a staff-driven, top-down "we know best" approach that consciously excludes more militant workers from bargaining or organizing committee work
4) leads to backroom dealings between union staffers and the boss, sending the wrong signal to workers
5) is used as an excuse for top-down negotiated sweetheart deals

frankly, that sounds like what this CNA is saying

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Chilli Sauce
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Mar 15 2008 02:57

So both these unions are shit, is that what we've decided?

To be fair, I have seen instances where I respect the SEIU campaigns, but that usually where rank-and-file organizers or shop stewards manage to keep the international at bay.

petey
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Mar 15 2008 03:09
ncwob wrote:
So both these unions are shit, is that what we've decided?

i put this up becuase it really confuses me. the CNA, on the one hand, are trying to put the kibosh on a successful unionization effort. on the other hand, their reasoning is impeccable, from a democratic-structure p.o.v. so i was hoping to start an argument, but there's been mostly pro-SEIU comment.
anyone want to take up for the CNA? thug, can you show real CNA connection to that stern-hater from CA?

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thugarchist
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Mar 15 2008 03:23
newyawka wrote:
thug, can you show real CNA connection to that stern-hater from CA?

Mmmm... just personal knowledge. You'll have to judge for yourself what thats worth to you. He's been denying it when accused of course. You could get the minutes from the last AFL-CIO IEB meeting where he attended with the CNA (CNA is an AFL-CIO union) but you'd have to get that yourself.

BTW. Roselli isn't a Stern hater. He loved Stern when Stern was force merging other locals into his local. He doesn't like him now because thats no longer happening.

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Mar 15 2008 03:27
ncwob wrote:
So both these unions are shit, is that what we've decided?

To be fair, I have seen instances where I respect the SEIU campaigns, but that usually where rank-and-file organizers or shop stewards manage to keep the international at bay.

What international campaigns have you seen? There are very few IU campaigns that are run by the IU. Most of them are run by local unions and the IU contributes resources. Occasionally that causes conflict. I left the IU for a local a few years ago when they jacked up our campaign for example.

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Chilli Sauce
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Mar 15 2008 04:00
Quote:
What international campaigns have you seen? There are very few IU campaigns that are run by the IU. Most of them are run by local unions and the IU contributes resources. Occasionally that causes conflict. I left the IU for a local a few years ago when they jacked up our campaign for example.

Perhaps I should have been more specific: campaigns have been militant when they managed to keep the influence of the international at bay. Or perhaps I just misspoke (misstyped?) and I should have just said in situations where the rank-and-file managed to keep the union hierarchy at bay?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the international just force the creation of super-locals with that span entire states and have like 100,000 members? I know quite a few members personally who feel this unnecessary centralization directly affected local autonomy and democracy and allowed the international (or union hierarchy) to stifle rank-and-file militancy.

onthemarch
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Mar 15 2008 04:02
pghwob wrote:

Problem in actual practice could be:

1) you don't get a militant membership without struggle;
2) the essentially and ADMITTEDLY (I have heard several SEIU organiziers admit to this) sweetheart deals don't always proceed further
3) creates a staff-driven, top-down "we know best" approach that consciously excludes more militant workers from bargaining or organizing committee work
4) leads to backroom dealings between union staffers and the boss, sending the wrong signal to workers
5) is used as an excuse for top-down negotiated sweetheart deals

1) True. Who said anything about no struggle? Pressure campaigns that force bosses to agree to a certification process that isn't wildly stacked in their favor is a struggle. Contract campaigns are struggle. I'm sure the worker-leaders who have spent three years fighting their CHP bosses see themselves as in a struggle. The open letter that a bunch of them wrote to Rose Ann Demoro of CNA - which is definitely worth reading - certainly gives that impression.
2) Is anything other than an NLRB election a "sweetheart deal" or is this only the case when SEIU does it?
3) How is that now? The part about more militant workers being consciously excluded from organizing and bargaining committees, that is.
4 and 5) I have the same question as above, do these backroom dealings and sweetheart deals include everything other than a traditional Board election? As for sending the wrong signal to workers, I think the signal sent in the case at hand was clear before all this CNA business. Make war on the boss, for years if necessary, and the boss will break.

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Mar 15 2008 14:57
ncwob wrote:
Quote:
What international campaigns have you seen? There are very few IU campaigns that are run by the IU. Most of them are run by local unions and the IU contributes resources. Occasionally that causes conflict. I left the IU for a local a few years ago when they jacked up our campaign for example.

1. Perhaps I should have been more specific: campaigns have been militant when they managed to keep the influence of the international at bay. Or perhaps I just misspoke (misstyped?) and I should have just said in situations where the rank-and-file managed to keep the union hierarchy at bay?

2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the international just force the creation of super-locals with that span entire states and have like 100,000 members? I know quite a few members personally who feel this unnecessary centralization directly affected local autonomy and democracy and allowed the international (or union hierarchy) to stifle rank-and-file militancy.

1. I could mostly agree with this, but maybe for different reasons. I think the IU is adept at certain specific strategies which don't always coincide with what Locals are more skilled at and so there are conflicts over tactics and strategy that can easily become cartoonish.

2. You're wrong. The 2004 convention voted to restructure the union along industrial lines. The place where it caused the most agitation was in the public sector locals who, regardless of what union is involved, like to have little tiny powerless fiefdoms. Regardless, like it, don't like it... the enitre union voted on it including the locals that don't like the results now. I'm of the opinion that industrial restructuring was important. Now the size of the new locals is another matter. There could have been a decision to make smaller industrially modelled locals. I wouldn't personally advocate for that but I can see the argument.

pgh2a
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Mar 15 2008 15:13
onthemarch wrote:
pghwob wrote:

Problem in actual practice could be:

1) you don't get a militant membership without struggle;
2) the essentially and ADMITTEDLY (I have heard several SEIU organiziers admit to this) sweetheart deals don't always proceed further
3) creates a staff-driven, top-down "we know best" approach that consciously excludes more militant workers from bargaining or organizing committee work
4) leads to backroom dealings between union staffers and the boss, sending the wrong signal to workers
5) is used as an excuse for top-down negotiated sweetheart deals

1) True. Who said anything about no struggle? Pressure campaigns that force bosses to agree to a certification process that isn't wildly stacked in their favor is a struggle. Contract campaigns are struggle. I'm sure the worker-leaders who have spent three years fighting their CHP bosses see themselves as in a struggle. The open letter that a bunch of them wrote to Rose Ann Demoro of CNA - which is definitely worth reading - certainly gives that impression.
2) Is anything other than an NLRB election a "sweetheart deal" or is this only the case when SEIU does it?
3) How is that now? The part about more militant workers being consciously excluded from organizing and bargaining committees, that is.
4 and 5) I have the same question as above, do these backroom dealings and sweetheart deals include everything other than a traditional Board election? As for sending the wrong signal to workers, I think the signal sent in the case at hand was clear before all this CNA business. Make war on the boss, for years if necessary, and the boss will break.

I've got no problem with pressure campaigns on bosses for recognition agreements, and I'd rather take the challenge of dealing with a shop that didn't go through a rough push-back from the boss over a bunch of fired workers and no shop.

On the sweetheart deals, it should be obvious what I'm talking about and what I've heard organizers say. I am not talking about weak contracts, per se. I'm talking about AGREEMENTS with BOSSES before the union is recognized, and before negotiations start, to not pursue certain things in negotiations. For example, agreeing the union will not push for a raise greater than $1 per hour during contract negotiations. This is usually done with the rationale that certain employers would otherwise be disadvantaged in the industry and such deals are necessary for the union to get a foothold.

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Mar 16 2008 15:02
pghwob wrote:
This is usually done with the rationale that certain employers would otherwise be disadvantaged in the industry and such deals are necessary for the union to get a foothold.

If you have any real argument against that rationale, please post it in this thread:

http://libcom.org/forums/organise/capital-flight-02022008

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thugarchist
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Mar 16 2008 15:35
MJ wrote:
pghwob wrote:
This is usually done with the rationale that certain employers would otherwise be disadvantaged in the industry and such deals are necessary for the union to get a foothold.

If you have any real argument against that rationale, please post it in this thread:

http://libcom.org/forums/organise/capital-flight-02022008

I'd be more interested in seeing the language from an actual agreement that limits economic proposals. I've never seen one or heard of one but read about them in labor notes all the time.

mikus
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Mar 16 2008 15:50

So why is CNA being called "an unusually militant union"? Have they had a militant history, or is the reference to their aggressive organizing drives, or is the writer just making stuff up?

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Mar 16 2008 16:36
mikus wrote:
So why is CNA being called "an unusually militant union"? Have they had a militant history, or is the reference to their aggressive organizing drives, or is the writer just making stuff up?

I'm not sure. They do have a hsitory of being politically militant in terms of everyday electoral politics and reporters pick up on that rhetoric a lot. At least in Cali usually. They go on strike occasionally. Not as much as Roselli does in Cali but reporters tend to report on nurse only strikes more than hospital strikes and even when they report on hospital strikes they usually only talk about nurses specifically. Reporters love nurse stories. Then there's the more interesting story that CNA downplays their participation in the AFL and their press releases say they're "independent" and such so reporters like the plucky little group of nurses story more than they like the million member seiu story kinda thing.

In general CNA members are really great but the union has this schtick about how they're nurses and nurses are different and blah blah reporters love that shit. Reporters also don't care about the difference between industrial and craft unionism. Steve Greenhouse from the NY Times is probably the only reporter in the US I've ever seen report on that kind of stuff.

Black Badger
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Mar 16 2008 17:17

Three years ago at my workplace (ambulance service) there was a vote to ditch the SEIU local in favor of a smaller (but growing) craft union. The SEIU had been our union for about eight years but had done almost nothing for our shop; for instance when I went through the new-hire orientation, there was no union rep to welcome us and let us know anything about the union, how to file grievances, or vote for shop stewards--or even to let us know who our shop stewards were. We just had to enroll in the union and give them monthly dues. They were completely invisible. So we voted them out. Twice, because they contested the fairness of the first election to the NLRB.

The union we have now is handling the upcoming contract negotiations and they've already discovered (and are moving to reverse) serious irregularities with our health coverage. SEIU organizers seemed much more interested in keeping the larger contingents of hospital workers in the Bay Area happy than with how the EMTs and Paramedics were getting screwed by our bosses. That the CNA was able to manifest the same discontent and break away from SEIU at almost exactly the same time is probably not a coincidence.

I am not arguing for craft unionism (and I have encountered plenty of anti-elitist nurses in ERs who feel the same, who recognize the intertwining interests of CNAs, LVNs, orderlies, janitors, etc), but SEIU has a history (at least locally) of ignoring many sectors of the healthcare industry to the point of outright alienation, and those who feel ignored are then pretty much forced to organize themselves for themselves. Militancy has very little to do with it, at least from my perspective. It's more about regular (that is, non-radical) workers wanting a union (if they want one in the first place) that actually looks out for them. SEIU/UHW has shown a rancid disregard for too many people. When the CNA strikes (and another 10-dayer is scheduled soon), the bosses bus in scab nurses, and the quality of care suffers (even anti-union patients say as much when they get quoted in the local media). Plus the strikers yell and wave dollar bills at them, which makes good TV. But that's not really militant either if we understand militancy to be pushes for rank-n-file decision making and revocable delegates, etc.

The question of rank-n-file versus top-down decision making is more complicated since none of the unions encourage it, making being in either SEIU or NEMSA a shitty choice for me. At least our current shop stewards are talking about job actions if/when the contract negotiations stall or if/when the bosses refuse to negotiate in good faith. Some of my co-workers are making militant noises, but most of us are so alienated from each other that I have my doubts about effective action. Plus the bosses will always counter anything we do by showing how much we can make with overtime.

onthemarch
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Mar 16 2008 17:25

I think Thugarchist is correct that the CNA image of militancy is the result of rhetoric and public stances on political issues. The CNA is loudly in favor of single payer for example, which is great. No matter how radical their rhetoric, it doesn't change what they objectively are - a craft union that divides workers within the same industry. Their militant image actually makes them worse than other craft unions in this regard, as it gives them ideological license to go do shit like they just did in Ohio. And leftists gobble it up.

I would also be curious to hear more about what specific agreements pghwob has in mind. Is the predefined limit on economic issues that you give as a "for example" just a hypothetical or are you referring to an actual agreement? If the latter, which one(s)?

petey
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Mar 16 2008 17:28
Black Badger wrote:
if we understand militancy to be pushes for rank-n-file decision making and revocable delegates, etc.

that's what i thought greenhouse meant when he called CNA "militant", though he probably had in mind an in-your-face style, too.