Labor Board Rejects SEIU Splinter Bid in CA
March 24, 2009 -- The effort by a new labor union to represent 14,000 Catholic Healthcare West workers in California has been dismissed by a National Labor Relations Board regional director who ruled that the contract between the employees' longtime union, Service Employees International Union, and the hospital chain bars such overtures.
Thus far this year, 91,000 SEIU-represented health care workers have signed petitions filed at the labor board saying they would like to vote on whether to be represented by the new union, formed by dissident leaders of a 140,000-member SEIU local, based in Oakland, who clashed with SEIU President Andy Stern and his deputies.
Rosselli, the former president of the local, said SEIU's practice was to accept weak contracts in exchange for employers not standing in the way of organizing efforts; SEIU accused the local's officials of financial malpractice. The international ousted Rosselli and others and took over the local, United Healthcare Workers-West, in what is called a trusteeship.
Rosselli's strategy is to get a majority of workers in a bargaining unit to sign petitions for a decertification vote, but the first of what may be several rulings from the NLRB regional director in San Francisco, Joseph Norelli, said a collective bargaining agreement in place bars the vote until the agreement expires April 30, 2012.
William B. Gould IV, a Stanford University professor emeritus of law and chairman of the NLRB from 1994-1998, said Monday, "Anytime a union and an employer enter into a collective bargaining agreement it stands as a bar to any representation petition unless one of two things have happened: One is that the contract has expired. Another is that if the contract has not expired, the representation petition is timely and will be entertained by the board if filed 90 to 60 days prior to the expiration of the contract or 90 to 60 days prior to three years after the contract was entered into, whichever is shorter."
The new union also sought labor board approval of its effort under the so-called schism exception, when there is a conflict over policy at the highest levels of a union. Norelli rejected that in part because this is actually a battle between two unions, the incumbent and a rival.
Dave Regan, a longtime labor leader named a trustee of the Oakland local, called the new union's failed bid at the NLRB reckless and irresponsible. He called it a "legal non-starter" that, he predicted, will doom the petitions filed by a majority of Kaiser Permanent's 50,000 California workers and other workers - at least until that time when petitions are considerable actable.
"These are not serious legal arguments or a serious position and the only effect is to confuse and weaken the workers at a time when two million Californians are out of work," said Regan.
E-mail George Raine at [email protected].
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