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Healthcare Workers Picket Their National Union to Protect Their Voice for Patients

Under fire from thousands of members, SEIU officials shut down California offices ahead of protests

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Caregivers who work in California hospitals, nursing homes, and homecare protested today outside the Los Angeles and Oakland offices of their national union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The protesters are members of United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), a local union that has been leading a movement for democratic reform within SEIU. To retaliate against reformers, SEIU's national officials have taken steps to take over the local union through a process called trusteeship. Trusteeship would allow them to oust the local union's leaders --- including more than 70 caregivers elected by their co-workers to UHW's executive board --- and appoint a Washington insider to take over the local union. A final hearing in the trusteeship process began today. The national union has also threatened to break up UHW and create a new local for healthcare workers, run by appointees from the national office, as another means of silencing internal critics.

"Healthcare workers make the decisions in UHW because we know what the challenges are," said Anita Wiltz, a nursing assistant at Golden Cross Nursing Home in Fresno and member of UHW's executive board. "That's why we've been able to win safer staffing levels and improve patient care across the state. SEIU officials want to take over our union so they can make backroom deals with healthcare corporations that are bad for caregivers and our patients."

Tens of thousands of caregivers --- a majority of UHW's 150,000 members -- signed petitions calling for an end to SEIU's attacks on California healthcare workers. But SEIU officials wouldn't accept them, instead shutting down their California offices in anticipation of the rallies.

More than 50 educators, authors, and worker advocates in California also sent a letter to Andy Stern on Monday, saying that a trusteeship of UHW "would be a disaster for the California labor movement."

Union members' right to free speech is recognized in federal labor law, and retaliation for political opposition is illegal. National SEIU officials claim the trusteeship is based on a set of financial charges against UHW members, but a judge tossed the same charges out of court in July after SEIU filed a lawsuit.

"When these hearings are over, President Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger will have to acknowledge that their charges were completely without merit," said Joe Ruocco, a senior lab assistant at Western Medical Center-Anaheim. "Then they'll have to address the real issue: members need more of a voice in SEIU, not less. We can't build strong unions by shutting caregivers out of important decisions."

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. |

Contact: Sadie Crabtree, 323-365-2083

SOURCE SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West
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