Daily Labor Report
NUMBER 95 A-15 MAY 16, 2012
Health Care Employees
UHW Members File Internal Charges Over Ratiﬁcation of Daughters of Charity Contract
mployees at three Daughters of Charity hospitals in California, who are members of United Healthcare Workers West, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, May 15 filed internal charges against the presidents of the local and the international union alleging they violated the union’s constitution by conducting an illegal ratification vote. A UHW spokesman, however, May 16 denied the allegations. The UHW members, who work at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynnwood, and St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, charged that UHW President Dave Regan and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry have engaged in ‘‘conduct contrary to both the Local and International union Constitutions and bylaws, and in breach of their duties and responsibilities as Presidents of the SEIU-UHW and the SEIU’’ regarding actions surrounding a recent threeyear labor contract reached with the Daughters of Charity Health Systems covering nearly 2,600 employees in six California hospitals (85 DLR A-12, 5/2/12). The other hospitals covered by the contract are Seton Coastside in Moss Beach, St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, and O’Connor Hospital in San Jose. According to the charge, UHW officials last month signed a tentative agreement with the Daughters of Charity that ‘‘freezes our pension plan, forces us into a 401(k) plan, cuts our health benefits, eliminates our right to conduct sympathy strikes, and reduces many other benefits and working conditions . . . . [T]he top officials at SEIU and SEIU-UHW refused to give us a fair chance to evaluate, discuss, and vote on the tentative agreement,’’ refusing to give members copies of the tentative agreement, and giving members only nine hours advance notice of the ratification meetings, the members charged.
Constitution Provides Three Days’ Notice of Meeting.
The charge alleges that Regan violated the UHW constitution by failing to provide affected members with three days’ notice of ratification meetings, and failed to allow affected members to review relevant tentative agreements regarding health care and pensions before forcing those members to vote on ratification. In addition,
the members charged Regan violated the UHW constitution and breached his fiduciary duties to the local by signing the contract when it had not been properly ratified. In a separate charge, the members also alleged that Regan engaged in financial malpractice in an effort to get voter signatures to qualify two measures for the ballot for statewide elections in California in November. The members accused Henry of failing to stop the ratification vote or extend the time for the vote after being made aware by UHW members that the vote was being held in violation of the UHW constitution and in a manner that disenfranchised many workers. According to the charge, UHW officials April 28 announced they were accepting the employer’s last, best, and final contract offer. An email sent to members about 9:30 p.m. that evening informed members that a ratification vote would be held beginning at 6 a.m. the following morning. Ratification votes were held at all six hospitals on Sunday and Monday, April 29-30, but because so little notice was given many workers were unaware that the meetings were occurring, the members charged. The UHW members alleged that the ratification vote violated the local’s constitution, which provides that employees be given ‘‘sufficient notice’’ of contract ratification meetings, and such meetings ‘‘should be scheduled as much in advance as possible. Affected members shall be given at least three days notice of such meeting.’’ ‘‘By failing to provide affected members with any ‘sufficient notice’ of ratification meetings, much less the requisite three days notification in advance of such meetings, Regan violated Article XIV, Section 7 of the SEIU-UHW Constitution and further, violated the rights of DOCHS workers who were denied their right to a meaningful vote in determining their wages, hours and working conditions,’’ the members charged. The members pointed out that only 198 union members, out of 728, at Seton Medical Center cast ballots in the ratification vote, yet a month earlier 570 workers voted in a National Labor Relations Board election. ‘‘These two votes—separated by a handful of weeks— indicate how many union members were disenfranchised by SEIU-UHW’s unconstitutional ratification vote,’’ the members asserted. While the voting still was under way April 30, employees wrote to Regan and Henry expressing concern that the ratification vote was being held in violation of Article XIV, Sections 7, 2, and 4, of the UHW constitu-
2012 BY THE BUREAU OF NATIONAL AFFAIRS, INC.
2 tion, which states, in part, that ‘‘collective bargaining is intended to involve members directly and actively in determining their wages, hours, and working conditions.’’ In a letter to both presidents, employees asked Regan and Henry to stop and or set aside the rushed ratification vote and hold a new one. They wrote: ‘‘How can we make an informed choice when we’re not even permitted to see the actual language that would define our families’ future health benefits and our pensions?’’ The members charged that despite their concerns, Regan and Henry failed to stop the vote, failed to extend the time for ratification, and failed to provide employees with the actual language of the tentative agreements. They also charged that Regan and Henry ‘‘completely failed to take any step whatsoever to allow affected employees to be directly and actively involved in ratifying their own contract.’’ Employees, who previously were covered by a point of service or preferred provider organization ‘‘buy-up plan,’’ also will be required to pay a higher percentage of the total premium than they previously paid, with an even higher percentage for those employees who do not participate in the wellness assessment, according to the summary. The percentages vary among the hospitals. According to the summary, the defined benefit pension plan will be eliminated and replaced with a 401(k) plan, with all benefits accrued up to Jan. 1, 2013, frozen. In addition, the contract imposes two-tier retirement benefits, with new hires receiving a smaller employer contribution rate. Current employees will receive contributions ranging from 3 percent to 11 percent, depending on the number of years of service. Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013, will receive employer contributions ranging from 3 percent to 7 percent.
UHW Spokesman Says NUHW Behind Charges. Steve Trossman, a spokesman for UHW, told BNA May 16 that the charges are a ‘‘hit piece on us’’ by the rival National Union of Healthcare Workers, alleging that the charges were written by NUHW’s lawyer rather than the workers. He denied all the charges contending that the proper notice was given about the ratification votes within the rules of the bylaws. Contending that the charges are merely ‘‘harassment’’ by the rival union, Trossman said 87 percent of those members voting agreed to ratify the contract. He added that almost half of the bargaining unit turned out to vote. Nonetheless, Trossman said the charges will be dealt with. There is a union ‘‘process to look at charges and deal with them,’’ he said, and the union plans to ‘‘follow our procedures’’ for when members file complaints. NUHW was created by former officials of United Healthcare Workers after SEIU placed the local under trusteeship (17 DLR A-17, 1/29/09). Within days, NUHW began filing petitions seeking elections in units represented by UHW (20 DLR A-12, 2/3/09). Terms of Contract in Dispute. In announcing the ratification of the contract, UHW said the contract provided a ‘‘free, family medical plan and phased costs for current employees on higher cost plans’’ as well as a ‘‘commitment for the hospital system to fully fund the current retirement liability, protecting the retirement benefits earned to date, and a new plan under which employees can receive up to 12 percent of their income in a retirement fund going forward.’’ According to a summary of the tentative agreement, which was posted on the NUHW website, three of the hospitals will continue to offer a fully employer paid health maintenance organization with comparable benefits and copayments if employees participate in a ‘‘wellness program.’’ Employees who decline to participate in the wellness assessment will be required to pay 20 percent of the total premium. The same is true of a fourth hospital that currently has a fully employer-paid point of service plan.
Regan Charged With Financial Malpractice. Meanwhile, the internal charges brought by the UHW members also charged Regan with financial malpractice alleging that he spent $5.5 million of UHW members’ dues to gather signatures from voters to qualify two ballot measures for the statewide elections in November. According to the UHW members, Regan told members and the public that the two measures—the ‘‘Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2012’’ and the ‘‘Charity Care Act of 2012’’—would overhaul the state’s health care system and protect consumers. He ‘‘deliberately failed to inform UHW’s members that the measures contained hidden loopholes that exempted California’s two largest hospital corporations (Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Healthcare) from the proposed laws,’’ the members alleged. On May 2, Regan announced that he was abandoning the measures, claiming that he took the action because of an agreement he negotiated with the California Hospital Association that included ‘‘unspecified commitments’’ from CHA, the members alleged. Regan, however, failed to release a copy of the agreement to UHW members for them to review the commitments he secured, they contended. UHW and the California Hospital Association May 2 announced they had reached a broad agreement through which the union agreed to drop two ballot measures aimed at hospital charity care and billing practices in exchange for help from the hospital association to organize workers (86 DLR A-2, 5/3/12). According to the charges, by abandoning the two ballot initiatives, ‘‘the millions of dollars of SEIU-UHW’s funds that had been dedicated to the effort have effectively been wasted. Brother Regan’s deceptive misrepresentations to SEIU-UHW’s members and his mismanagement of SEIU-UHW’s resources resulted in the misappropriation of millions of dollars of union members’ funds and resources.’’ The members charged that Regan’s failure to release the agreement ‘‘supports a conclusion that he has mismanaged millions of dollars of SEIU-UHW’s resources and is simply employing the reported agreement as a
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2012 BY THE BUREAU OF NATIONAL AFFAIRS, INC.
3 face-saving device to cancel his mismanagement of union members’ resources.’’ The charges allege that Regan violated Article XXI of UHW’s constitution, which requires union funds to be used for joint use of union membership, and Article XVII, Section 1 of the SEIU constitution by violating the local’s constitution, violating his oath of office, engaging in conduct unbecoming a member, ‘‘gross inefficiency which might hinder and impair the interests of the international or the local union,’’ and financial malpractice. In concluding the letter containing the charges, the members said ‘‘if the present leadership of SEIU-UHW and SEIU cares at all that collective bargaining at least appear member-led, it will immediately properly renotice this ratification vote and allow affected DOCHS employees to vote after providing affected employees with a copy of the proposed agreement and also at least three days advance notification of the vote.’’ A May 16 call to SEIU seeking comment was referred to the local union.
BY MICHELLE AMBER
Text of the charges may be accessed at http:// op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=mamr-8uct7l.
DAILY LABOR REPORT