Two labor unions in California are formalizing what has been a longstanding informal relationship. The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) announced last week a legal affiliation that is for now a strategic alliance rather than a merger.
The 10,000-member NUHW and 85,000-member CNA will maintain separate constitutions and autonomous internal governance structures but will act like one union on agreed upon projects, legislative goals, organizing campaigns and contract campaigns, said Sal Rosselli, president of NUHW.
The affiliation with NUHW at this point does not impact CNA’s affiliation with National Nurses United, Rosselli added, but it does mean that the potential affiliation between NUHW and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) will not happen. NUHW and IAM formed a partnership last year that had the potential to develop into a formal affiliation. While that affiliation will not happen now, Rosselli said, IAM still supports NUHW’s goals.
Among those goals is to become the union that represents 43,000 technical and service workers at Kaiser Permanente. The election is a rematch between NUHW and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
A National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge threw out the results of a 2010 election between NUHW and SEIU in which Kaiser workers voted to remain in SEIU. In 2011, the NLRB judge found SEIU guilty of misconduct, including colluding with Kaiser Permanente to impede employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice. The date of the rematch election has not been set yet.
Rosselli is confident that NUHW will prevail in the election rematch and once that “game changer” election is behind them, he said, NUHW will have the momentum to pursue a decades-long dream of his: the creation of a national union only for healthcare workers.
“There are 9 million non-union hospital workers in this country that need a union, especially since the industry corporatized – went away from community hospitals into mega-corporations that run almost all the hospitals in this country,” he said.
“Equal with establishing standards for healthcare workers – wages and other benefits – is the drive to make sure that healthcare workers are empowered to have a real voice in determining staffing levels and other issues regarding how healthcare is provided,” he continued. “We believe that unionized healthcare workers are the last line of defense between corporations making decisions based on profit and the bottom line as opposed to providing adequate care.”