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Calif. health workers unite against union

July 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of California healthcare workers gathered at the Marriott Manhattan Beach hotel Monday. The workers were protesting hearings held at the hotel by their Washington, D.C.-based international union.Protestors, many of them from Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers West, argued that their parent union, Service Employees International, headed by Andrew Stern, is aiming to split their local union in half. The workers said SEIU is dividing nursing-home workers and home-care workers from their fellow members who work in hospitals.

"We don't want Andy Stern and his SEIU stepping in and taking over our rights," said union member Laura Crum.

UHW West members said the SEIU is trying to punish them for demanding their own voice. The members also said they don't want the union to negotiate exclusively for members working in hospitals, but for home care workers as well.

"SEIU wants to take away our members' voices at the bargaining table. UHW doesn't agree with that. We are a member-built and member-driven union. Our local is built from the members up, the bottom up. And we're not willing to sacrifice that," said another union member.

"It seems as though they are trying to split our union. So, we're looking for one voice, and one voice only," said Abdullah Muhammad, a UHLA West member.

While protestors said the SEIU wants to divide and weaken them, SEIU officials said that is not true.

"The goal here is to strengthen the voice of nursing home and long-term care workers, who are in home care as well. And, that's the only agenda here," said union spokesperson Steve Trossman.

Trossman said nursing home and home care workers in California are split between three local unions, including UHW West. So, SEIU is concerned those workers may be underserved.

"Workers have the strongest voice when they are united in one organization. And the question is, how do we go about that? And that's the question that is going to be answered by this hearing," said Trossman.

SEIU officials said that no matter how the hearings go, members will have a say in the final outcome.

 

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