NUHW has overcome a concerted “no-union” campaign from SEIU and hospital management to win bargaining rights for over 600 USC University Hospital workers. NUHW’s 393-122 victory over “no union” followed SEIU’s removal of its name from the ballot last week, claiming that it could not overcome management intimidation of its own members. SEIU had previously spent months in an aggressive anti-NUHW campaign that many believed was designed to bolster management’s own anti-union efforts. NUHW’s victory is sweet vindication for NUHW worker leaders and organizers arrested and disciplined by management in recent weeks, and should have workers asking whether they want a union that runs from management intimidation or stays and fights.
SEIU Runs From Hostile Employer
NUHW’s hard fought USC University Hospital election victory shows that workers were not intimidated by management’s anti-union campaign or by SEIU’s attacks on the integrity of NUHW’s campaign coordinator, Barbara Lewis. But most importantly, the USC campaign raises troubling questions about SEIU’s willingness to battle anti-union employers.
Asked by the Los Angeles Times why SEIU was withdrawing from the USC election, SEIU-UHW spokesperson Adriana Surfas, “blamed hospital intimidation.” Surfas said “management created an extremely hostile environment, so that workers who supported unionization feared what was going to happen.”
Yet USC workers were not so afraid that they were dissuaded from replacing SEIU-UHW with rival NUHW.
While SEIU abandoned its own workers in response to USC’s aggressive anti-union campaign, NUHW stayed in the fight. And it kept battling after campus security arrested and handcuffed three organizers on May 13 (for “trespassing” by sitting in the hospital cafeteria, as they had done for months).
NUHW also withstood management’s harassment of key worker leader Michael Torres, who was given an eight day suspension, demoted, and had his pay reduced.
While NUHW battled management’s anti-union tactics, SEIU organizers Cory Cordova and Gerri Harris filmed the organizers’ arrests, saying nothing to object.
NUHW Won’t Be Intimidated
SEIU’s decision to abandon USC in the face of employer intimidation is consistent with its public strategy to defeat NUHW in Kaiser Hospital elections by intimidating and harassing NUHW supporters. Is SEIU correct that intimidation is a winning strategy?
Someone should ask SEIU-UHW co-trustee Eliseo Medina about this. Medina was among the many organizers and workers with the United Farm Workers (UFW) who were assaulted, harassed and intimidated by Teamster goons in the fields, yet it was the nonviolent UFW that triumphed.
At the time, UFW organizers believed that Teamster intimidation tactics alienated workers and boosted their loyalty to the UFW. Despite this history, Medina’s SEIU-UHW believed that management intimidation at USC would prevail, and that intimidating NUHW supporters at Kaiser will bring SEIU success.
Oscar Rivera, a respiratory therapist at USC for 8 years, disagrees. He described the feeling of NUHW’s victory: “Today we took back our union and we took back our hospital. It’s exciting to finally have a voice, to feel like we’re equals with management again.” USC co-worker Julio Estrada added, ““A week before the election, SEIU withdrew representation from us and blamed it on the anti‑union campaign they helped foster. But we don’t quit when our rights and jobs are at stake.”
USC workers stood their ground against management and SEIU attacks, and NUHW’s victory should intensify SEIU’s fears that its intimidation tactics will also fail to sway Kaiser workers this fall.
Randy Shaw is the author of Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, which will be out in paperback in July.Filed under: Archive