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California SEIU Members Support Single Union Uniting Long-Term Care Workers

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- SEIU announced today that its California healthcare members have voted to support the creation of a single local uniting the state's long-term care workers. The International Executive Board (IEB), SEIU's highest democratically elected decision-making body, will weigh the results of the non-binding advisory vote next month as it considers reforms designed to strengthen the representation of California long-term care workers.

"This democratic advisory vote will be carefully considered by the International Executive Board," said SEIU President Andy Stern. "Our members sent a clear message today. A single statewide local can instantly transform long-term care workers into one of the leading political and economic forces in the Golden State. With a massive budget crisis and Governor Schwarzenegger calling for devastating cuts in worker pay and patient care, our members are saying now is the time to pool our strength."

In more than three weeks of mail-in balloting, members affected by the proposed reorganization were given the opportunity to vote their preference on whether to create a new single statewide long-term care local or a new statewide local representing a broader classification of healthcare workers. The result was 86.2% to 13.8% in favor of a long-term care local.

The California reorganization is part of a systematic reform of SEIU that has been taking place since 1996. In 2000, delegates to the SEIU International Convention adopted the New Strength in Unity Plan, and the Union launched an aggressive restructuring program, breaking up old political fiefdoms and uniting workers by industry and geography into larger, more modern locals. Organizational reforms have increased political strength and bargaining power for SEIU members in Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Illinois, Washington, and California. Among the new locals created by the reorganizations was United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), whose leaders actively supported the dissolution of Locals 399 and 250 in 2005 to create UHW.

"Our members understand that in an age concentrating wealth and globalizing corporate ownership, we have to organize ourselves on a scale to compete and win. That means declaring the era of old local bossism is over," Stern said.

The current process of determining long-term care jurisdiction in California began in 2006 when healthcare workers were reorganized in a manner leaving long-term care workers divided among three locals, United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), Local 521, and United Long-Term Care Workers Local 6434. At that time, the IEB recommended that SEIU examine the question of whether fragmentation was working to the detriment of homecare workers. That reevaluation was the focus of hearings held in May and July 2008 and overseen by outside hearing officer Leonard Page.

After receiving testimony from each of the locals and from the Long-Term Care Division of SEIU Healthcare, Page recommended the creation of a new long- term care local union by combining long-term care members from Local 521, Local 6434 and UHW. The SEIU Executive Committee recommended that the IEB conduct an advisory membership vote to measure member support for the option suggested by the hearing officer and for an additional option, advanced by UHW during the hearings, of a new statewide healthcare local union.

In the first week of January 2009, the IEB will proceed to finalize its decision in the California jurisdiction matter. Should the IEB determine to charter a new local union, a personal representative will be assigned for a term of 30 days following the finalization of the IEB's decision, with the responsibility to draw up a plan and schedule for the implementation of the jurisdiction decision. No action would be taken to implement any jurisdictional change until the schedule and plan are approved by the International President in February 2009.

The recommendations being considered by the IEB do not involve workers in public healthcare facilities or other health systems workers outside of UHW.

With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare, and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today's global economy.

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