SACRAMENTO — A labor union that pushed a pair of ballot measures that would have reined in excessive hospital billing and expanded healthcare for the poor has dropped them — in exchange for an agreement that enlists the hospital industry in the union's organizing efforts.
The agreement, announced late Wednesday, ends a months-long public battle between the Service Employees International Union and the California Hospital Assn. Private hospitals had accused the union of using the initiative process as leverage in contract negotiations to expand its membership, a charge the union strongly denied.
Under the new pact, called a Partnership for a Healthy California, the hospital association pledges to facilitate meetings between the SEIU and chief executives of hospitals and health systems employing 100,000 nonunion workers. (Those hospitals, the document notes, are not bound to sign organizing agreements.) In turn, the SEIU agreed not to file petition signatures with county election officials and the secretary of state's office.
On Wednesday, both parties downplayed the organizing component of the deal, portraying the agreement as the product of an unprecedented partnership dedicated to tackling the most pressing issues in modern healthcare. The SEIU and the hospital association vowed to form a labor-management task force to find ways to lower costs, improve quality and expand access.