SEIU NURSE LOCK-OUT: Who is Brent Yessin?

This coverage is sponsored by SEIU.

SEIU nurses in both Desert Spring and Valley Hospitals, both of which are run by Universal Health Services, will tell you this isn't about unions.

It's not even about money.

What it is about these nurses providing the best patient care possible.

There's just one catch. Universal Health Services, which is run by David Bussone, has decided to make it about the union. UHS and Bussone have decided that they, not the nurses, know what's best for patients. So, not only are they pressuring nurses to care for too many patients, but they've brought in the big guns to make sure the nurses know they mean business.

Enter Brent Yessin and Brent Yessin & Associates. He's also a former Vice President of the Burke Group, an anti-union firm. People at these anti-union firms are sometimes called "persuaders." Quaint, isn't it. In California, these "persuaders" have been used repeatedly to undermine the California Nurses Association. In California, nurses are made to attend mandatory meetings where they are lectured by these "persuaders," whose fees range from $118 - $210 per hour, with expenses going into the millions for these anti-union campaigns. Mr. Yessin has earned quite a reputation. He's a master of anti-union campaigns.

It had been brewing for years. Notorious union-busting consultant Brent Yessin was hired by VHS in January 2006, when the two hospitals' contracts with nurses gave up, but the union says agreements were made in the summer of 2005 to bring him in. In September of that year, 39 nurses at Desert Springs made news when they were suspended from work for wearing SEIU pins on their uniforms. In 2003, Desert Springs tried without success to rid themselves of the union, and in 1999, when SEIU was defying the medical field's historical resistance to unions, they and Valley led an unsuccessful charge to keep unions out of hospitals.

Caring for the Caretakers
Nurses and hospitals continue the war over union demands

I've learned a lot about David Bussone's Universal Health Services in a very short period of time. Brent Yessin comes part of the package. They're fighting very hard and mean, but the really tragic thing is that Bussone's UHS is the only group willing to take down nurses and their patients in the process.

Unlike Bussone's Universal Health Services, Catholic Health Care West adopted specific nurse-to-patient ratios, which are enforceable through nurse contract; banned mandatory overtime; and ensured that nurses won't be floated to stations beyond her/his expertise.

Unlike Bussone's UHS, Hospital Corporation of America (Sunrise Hospital) also agreed to improve staffing levels by mid-contract, while also banning mandatory overtime, with "true partner floating."

Only Bussone's Universal Health Services refuses to bring Desert Springs and Valley hospitals up to standards already adopted by the other hospitals. According to the SEIU, UHS has refused to make any guaranteed staffing improvements. To give you an idea of how understaffed UHS is regardine nursing care, they would have to hire 198 nurses to reach an equivalent staffing to Catholic Health Care West. UHS has also refused to ban mandatory overtime. In addition, UHS, through a contract loophole, allows nurses to float across the hospital, "including areas where they lack expertise," according to SEIU.

Feel safer, Las Vegas?

Well, I've got a news flash for you. This isn't just about Las Vegas. It's about what could happen across this country to U.S. healthcare once we try to make it accessible to everyone. If hospital conglomerates aren't made to understand that profit is important, but not nearly as important as patient care, we could all be looking at a situation like Las Vegas in every small town and big city across this country.

Brent Yessin came in to Las Vegas to help David Bussone keep control over UHS facilities. Evidently, Yessin and Bussone think they know best. Are they nurses? Do Yessin and Bussone know what it takes to care for patients? It's their business, but to SEIU nurses locked out in Las Vegas, it is their calling, their passion. What Yessin is doing for Bussone is intended to keep unions out of UHS hospitals, or break the unions when they do. Their threats are powerful and they back them up with actions. Don't like UHS policy? Tough. You're fired.

Special procedures nurse Christina Schofield, one of SEIU's nurses recently fired, says that Yessin tries to intimidate and oppress the nursing staff. She says:

"Six to eight months ago, the union-busters came in and started holding these mandatory meetings where they pulled nurses away from their patients and filled them with anti-union propaganda. Then they'd send around petitions for the nurses to deny allegiance to the union. Five of them in two weeks, each two hours long. They never let me attend them because I kept asking: `Who's taking care of the patients during these meetings?'

"Then they started with the one-on-one meetings, where they for instance would pull an international nurse inside, huddle around her, and ask her: `You like your visa? You want to keep it, don't you?'"

Schofield, who says she had never had a write-up prior to the "countless" formal reprimands she received this year ("for things like retrieving a Diet Coke from the ER"), says that management made an extra effort to suppress union literature, and posted their own propaganda every day with yellow fliers on the walls. Moreover, she says, she had to get used to security following her out on her breaks.

"The nurses are terrified now," she says. "They know this regime's threats are not empty, because, well, they fired me, didn't they?"

Caring for the Caretakers
Nurses and hospitals continue the war over union demands

One of the most important issues across this country is healthcare. Making healthcare accessible and affordable for every American, especially children, regardless of ability to pay is one of our priorities. But within this argument brews a much missed element of the story. What kind of healthcare will we receive for this universal coverage? If one nurse has to take care of 10 very sick patients, what kind of care do we each individually receive?

David Bussone's UHS lock-out of SEIU nurses in Las Vegas is just one part of this story; a microcosm of what could happen on a much larger scale as we move forward into the healthcare debate in this country. We had better pay attention to this fight and make certain the outcome is something we can all live with, because our lives could quite literally depend on it.

Disclaimer: This coverage by Taylor Marsh is sponsored by SEIU.

Tags: Brent Yessin, David Busson, Democrats, Healthcare, SEIU, Unions, Universal Health Services, Vegas Nurses (all tags)



Re: SEIU NURSE LOCK-OUT: Who is Brent Yessin?

i was once made by my employer to research and find a "persuader" to "persuade" the workforce of a subsidiary firm not to unionize.  working for crazy rightwing types made it impossible to beg off as my reasoning wouldn't be well received at all.  luckily i was able to limit my involvement to a single google search and sending my boss an email with a link.

that said, i was pretty impressed with the "persuaders."  rather than helping management destroy the unionization move they helped the management sort of compete with the union by clarifying their current wage/benefit packages and comparing it to similar packages at unionized competitors.  (the wages/benefits were superior at this particular company.)  then the "persuaders" urged management to back out of the process except to answer questions.  basically, it was "here's what you currently get, here's what you'll probably get with a union.  let us know what you decide to do."

the employees voted no on the union but it was probably the right choice because they would have been worse off if they unionized.  i doubt that's usually the case and that probably doesn't stop the "persuaders" from using more persuasive persuasion to head off unionization drives.

by corn dog 2006-12-05 02:39PM | 0 recs
CA nurses and ballot issues

Not sure if this was ballot issue or legislation but didn't CA nurses get a state mandated ratio of nurses to patients?

Is Univesal Health Care trying to get around those state mandated ratios?

What are the labor issues in the case of the two hospitals?

by BrionLutz 2006-12-05 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: CA nurses and ballot issues

Yes they did.  It is now 5 to 1.

The legislature passed a bill.  Arnold tried to suspend it.  The nurses sued.  He gave his infamous "they don't like me because I am always kicking their butts" speech.  They and the rest of labor kicked his butt and he dropped his battle against their lawsuit.

by juls 2006-12-05 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: CA nurses and ballot issues

So what are the labor issues in the mentioned strike?

by BrionLutz 2006-12-05 03:25PM | 0 recs
Re: CA nurses and ballot issues

Well, this is in NV not CA and it is a lockout not a strike.  The workers threatened to strike over patient care issues and the company preempted them by hiring workers to replace them during the dispute.

by juls 2006-12-05 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: CA nurses and ballot issues

how do you hire a whole hospital's worth of nurses and transition seemlessly overnight?

by corn dog 2006-12-05 03:34PM | 0 recs
Re: CA nurses and ballot issues

Taylor knows more than me, but I believe it was just half of the nurses that were replaced on a temporary basis.  The hospital is still operating.

by juls 2006-12-05 04:04PM | 0 recs
Re: CA nurses and ballot issues it...missed the opening link.

So nurses were going to vote on a union so hospital fired all the nurses and replaced them with non-union?

Is there a link that goes in to detail on the issues?

by BrionLutz 2006-12-05 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: CA nurses and ballot issues

No there was already a union.  They were under contract negotiations.  See Taylor's earlier post for more details.

by juls 2006-12-05 04:06PM | 0 recs
Re: SEIU NURSE LOCK-OUT: Who is Brent Yessin?

Sadly this seems to be exactly why the NLRB just redefined nurses (and others) as supervisory personel and as such undeserving of union protection.

What if this is not about these two or three hospitals or rather as a means to start stripping membership from SEIU and the union movement in general.

The HMO's and Wal-Marts might decide that they best push this now rather then wait and offer an oppurtunity for this "window" of eligibility be reversed before a precedent could be established.

by Rational 2006-12-05 03:17PM | 0 recs
Job Assignments ? Staffing

From what I ahve read the issues getting covereed are "patient Care" staffing issues.

Nurse/patient ratio as well as Nurses being posted outside of ther specialty's.

Taylor, the author of this article has more at .php?id=24908

Hope that works.

by Rational 2006-12-05 04:03PM | 0 recs
nurses and maids

Ooh, nurses. After SIEU's huge win for janitors, they should fight for maids too.

by nonwhiteperson 2006-12-05 05:33PM | 0 recs
Re: nurses and maids

That's the great thing about Las Vegas (and the reason the early caucus is being held in Nevada) - the maids are already unionized in most of the hotel/casinos.  Las Vegas is at the forefront of modern union organizing.

by adoubleplusgood 2006-12-06 09:07PM | 0 recs
NYTimes article has some good info.

on the company that provides non-union nurses to help the health care corporations break unions and strikes.

Now that would be a good focus for MyDD reporter...who are the "mechanics" who fight against health care unions.

The corporation that makes a living providing non-union workers looks even more dangerous than the "persuaders" since they provide the actual tools to do the dirty work.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-06 05:02AM | 0 recs
Re: SEIU NURSE LOCK-OUT: Who is Brent Yessin?

Check out some more of Brent Yessin's handiwork in this article on the Somerset nurse strike in New Jersey: 4080/is_200404/ai_n9366804

Word on the street is that he walked the picket line, shaking his finger in nurses' faces, saying, "You're fired, you're fired, you're fired."

Illegal, of course.  Effective, yes.

by Stephanie Taylor 2006-12-06 05:22AM | 0 recs


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