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Healthcare Workers Answer SEIU Ultimatum

United Healthcare Workers call for a fair vote by members -- and challenge Washington, D.C. officials to honor workers' right to choose their local union

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Friday, SEIU officials in Washington, D.C. gave United Healthcare Workers (UHW) an ultimatum: support the undemocratic transfer of 65,000 nursing home and homecare workers out of UHW against their will, or face an immediate takeover and the expulsion of more than 70 healthcare workers who were elected to lead the local union.

Today, UHW's elected executive board sent a letter challenging SEIU President Andy Stern to a fair vote by those 65,000 union members, and calling on him to accept workers' rights to determine their own future.

"Given the enormity of this decision and its vast implications for UHW members," the executive board wrote, "such a decision should be enacted by a fair membership vote on a local-by-local basis, not by executive fiat."

The letter calls for a democratic voting process that is "consistent with the SEIU Constitution and follows the model of the merger between Local 250 and Local 399 that led to the creation of UHW in 2005, and the various mergers, including most recently of 1199NJ, and other local unions into 1199UHE." The proposal also asks SEIU to respect the right of UHW caregivers to elect their own representatives in bargaining with employers, and the right of unorganized healthcare workers to choose to join UHW.

Finally, it calls for a mediated process to re-integrate UHW into SEIU, followed by a collaborative process between SEIU, UHW, and the new statewide long-term care union that could eventually allow long-term care workers and other healthcare workers to reunite in a statewide healthcare workers' union, if they chose to do so through a fair and democratic vote consistent with the SEIU constitution.

"All we want is the fundamental rights that all union members should have," said Ruby Guzman, a certified nursing assistant and union steward at Creekside Healthcare Center in San Pablo. "The right to vote on what union we will belong to, and the right to elect leaders who represent us. If national SEIU leaders will agree to protect those rights, we are ready to reconcile our differences and move forward for the greater good of the labor movement and our vision of a more just and democratic society."

UHW's proposal was discussed and voted on over the weekend by more than 5,000 elected union stewards representing the local union's 150,000 members. It was approved this morning by UHW's elected executive board.

With more than 150,000 members, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West is the fastest-growing healthcare union in the United States. We represent healthcare workers in all job classifications and all healthcare settings, including hospitals, homecare, nursing homes and clinics. Our mission is to achieve high-quality healthcare for all.

    Sadie Crabtree

SOURCE SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West
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