The National Union of Healthcare Workers (formerly part of the SEIU) is challenging the outcome of a bitterly fought election in Fresno, CA against the SEIU. The vote tally late Friday evening revealed that the SEIU had narrowly won by a 233-vote margin. The SEIU received 2,938 votes compared to the NUHW’s 2,705 votes, with 90 ballots still being contested.
According to Steve Sanchez, interim program manager for the Fresno County Public Authority, the state mediator will not certify the election results for 10 calendar days.
The NUHW is contesting the election outcome and asking for a recount vote. NUHW officials charged the SEIU of voter intimdation and harassment throughout the campaign:
“SEIU engaged in an illegal campaign fraught with violations of state and federal law,” said Kevin Hall, a Fresno volunteer organizer. “We will be filing charges against them immediately to have a re-run of this election.”
In an e-mail, NUHW said Fresno County homecare providers reported scores of incidents of voter intimidation, illegal threats and ballot manipulation by SEIU staff.
“Based on SEIU’s illegal conduct and flawed decisions by the county election officer, healthcare workers in NUHW will file a legal challenge to the election and not be party to certification of the results,” the union said.
Pro-labor activist/columnist Randy Shaw analyzes the outcome of the SEIU/NUHW battle and finds that the SEIU is significantly weakened after expending considerable resources and funds to barely win an organizing election. The SEIU spent nearly $10 million and almost 1,000 staffers to “win” by 233 votes.
Shaw thinks that the SEIU/NUHW battle dealt a blow to the SEIU’s model of operations, arguing that “Fresno appears to confirm that SEIU’s rush to get more workers under union contracts as the key strategy for gaining greater clout over national policies has come at a cost.” He goes on to predict that many of the SEIU’s healthcare workers will leave for the NUHW, which will cause further problems for the SEIU:
In September, SEIU bargaining units of around 35,000 home care workers in Sacramento and San Francisco will file for decertification elections. If SEIU could not win easily in Fresno, it is unlikely to prevail in NUHW’s strongest base.
The next year will see decertification elections throughout the state’s major hospitals, an arena where NUHW is particularly strong. As NUHW starts winning elections, SEIU is faced with throwing more money and staff into many unwinnable campaigns. This California fight could drain SEIU’s treasury and morale for years.
SEIU is finding itself in a precarious position with its battles not only in California, but nationally, against UNITE HERE. It’s already on tenuous financial footing, which explains why it’s been so desperate to pass EFCA. It should be interesting to see how much SEIU escalates its actions in California and against John Wilhelm’s faction of UNITE HERE.