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Ousted UHW leaders form new union

The new group, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, is collecting union cards from UHW members as fight over representation with SEIU escalates.

January 29, 2009|Evelyn Larrubia

The ousted leaders of Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers West on Wednesday announced that they have formed a new union and intend to begin recruiting their former members, a continuation of brinkmanship between UHW and the Service Employees International Union.

The new group is called the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and organizers are busily collecting union cards from UHW members, the first step toward recognition in workplaces.

"It makes no sense for us that any group of leaders create another vehicle to represent workers who are already in a union," replied SEIU board member Mary Kay Henry, noting that she was angry at the move.

SEIU, which took over UHW on Tuesday, sent employers a memo saying that the parent union was now in charge, that UHW staff no longer had any authority and that employers should report any contact by UHW staff.

Sal Rosselli, who was removed as president of UHW, said employers stopped contract negotiations and told shop stewards that they would no longer recognize their authority in some instances.

But Dave Regan, one of the co-trustees appointed by SEIU, said shop stewards and other rank-and-file representatives have not been stripped of their positions and are trying to ensure that all bargaining goes forward without delay.

As accusations and counter-accusations continued to fly, other groups began taking sides. Consumer Watchdog, a patients' rights group, and the California Nurses Assn. both made public their support of UHW's former leadership, which they say negotiated better contracts.

"When [SEIU] unions take over, they are very favorable for the nursing home owners," said Jamie Court of Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog.

SEIU and UHW have been in a protracted disagreement over organizing and negotiating methods for healthcare workers. The fight has come to a head over 65,000 home health aides, now members of UHW, which SEIU decided to take out of UHW and put into a new union representing the state's 240,000 home health aides.

After hearings on alleged financial improprieties by UHW, a hearing officer recommended that UHW be put in trusteeship if it did not cooperate with the merger. UHW refused to do so without majority support.

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evelyn.larrubia@latimes.com

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