I love a good fight—and when gangs fight one another, the public wins.  In this case two major unions are fighting over the right to extort money from health care workers at Kaiser-Permanente.  The fun part is that the leaders of both unions call the other “the most corrupt union in America”.

Personally, I call it a draw.  Both extort money from workers.  Both blackmail the employers and the sick and elderly.  Recently unionized nurses walked off the job, leaving thousands of sick in hospitals.  Oh, Kaiser sided with the SEIU and found guilty of abusing workers in a recent election, forcing this new one.

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Unions join forces to fight nursing cutbacks

Sacramento Business Journal by Kathy Robertson, 1/4/13

Two feisty labor unions are joining forces to fight efforts to roll back California’s strict nurse-to-patient ratio law and erode contract protections they’ve won at Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, formed four years ago when Service Employees International Union took control of California local United Healthcare Workers West, has affiliated with the California Nurses Association.

The affiliation unites 10,000 health-care workers at NUHW with 85,000 registered nurses at CNA, both currently at loggerheads with Kaiser, Sutter, SEIU and the California Hospital Association. It’s a strategic alliance, not a merger.

The two unions will retain separate constitutions and structures under the agreement; NUHW will be an autonomous affiliate of CNA. There’s language in the agreement about an Integration Team that may review accounting methods, reporting requirements, back office functions and other issues.

The only financial piece relates to NUHW repayment of what’s believed to be a $2 million loan made by CNA to keep NUHW afloat in recent years. Starting July 1, NUHW will pay per capita payments of $5 per member per month. Payments will jump to $10 per member per month a year later.

The focus of the affiliation is a united front.

“It’s all about making sure we collectively — nurses and other health-care workers — have the ability to provide the care we need to protect patients,” said Cathy Kennedy, an intensive-care nurse at Kaiser’s Roseville hospital.

Most recently, the two unions jointly picketed 21 Kaiser hospitals on Dec. 18 — including all three in the Sacramento region — to protest what they say is inadequate nurse staffing and delays in patient care.

The California Nurses Association held its seventh strike against Sutter hospitals in the Bay Area Dec. 24.

Both unions are itching to go head-to-head with SEIU president Dave Regan, who has joined forces with the California Hospital Association in an effort to improve employee health while addressing the cost drivers of health care through a multifaceted “Let’s Get Healthy California” campaign.

Regan made an unprecedented move last year to get support for legislation to temporarily relax nurse-to-patient ratios at California hospitals during meal times and rest breaks. It didn’t go anywhere. He asked the California Labor Federation to go neutral on a bill if one was proposed — and was turned down.

Adamantly opposed by California hospitals as reducing their ability to staff to meet actual patient need instead of achieving boilerplate numbers, the ratio law was the product of 10 years of intense lobbying by the nurses’ union — and they were furious at efforts to skirt it.

SEIU spokesman Steve Trossman called the affiliation “a lot of hoopla over not much substance.”

“They’ve essentially worked together for the last fours years,” Trossman said, noting NUHW won elections to take over SEIU membership in small Kaiser units in Northern and Southern California but has been unable to get a contract for either one.

The big plum — a new election for some 43,000 technical and service workers at Kaiser Permanente that stuck with SEIU last time around — is pending in 2013.

“Bigger picture,” Trossman added. “Last year in Wisconsin, thousands lost collective bargaining rights … and the labor movement needs every resource it has to stay alive, convince more workers to join and make the movement strong, not to get back these people.”

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