Kaiser workers in California vote to stay with powerful service employees union over new rival

By Sam Hananel, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kaiser workers to stay in service employees union

WASHINGTON — Thousands of California health care workers at Kaiser Permanente have decided to stay with the Service Employees International Union rather than bolt for an upstart rival.

The voting was the nation’s biggest private sector union election since 1941.

The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that 62 percent of Kaiser’s 43,000 workers voted for the 2 million-member SEIU over the newly created National Union of Healthcare Workers.

The new union was started last year by former SEIU leaders ousted by the larger union in a bitter power struggle. The protracted fight has been a major distraction for organized labor, with union advocates saying resources should be spent winning over new workers instead of fighting over existing members.

With its victory, the SEIU keeps more than $40 million a year in membership dues and can try to move past a dispute that has cost millions. A loss would have threatened the union’s clout in the health care industry and Democratic political circles, where it’s a major player.

Sal Rosselli, leader of the insurgent NUHW, had claimed that former SEIU President Andy Stern granted too many concessions to health care corporations at the expense of union members. The SEIU said Rosselli was simply making a power grab.

Rosselli indicated he would contest the results.

Without the Kaiser workers, NUHW has just a few thousand members and an uncertain future as a player in the health care industry.

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