For the last month, Andy Stern's SEIU has been trying to stop worker activists at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo from organizing to win an election and build their own union, NUHW. Today they counted the votes.
158 workers voted for NUHW. 24 workers voted for SEIU.
There's a story behind this David vs. Goliath victory, and it has implications for everyone who cares about the labor movement and grassroots efforts to build workers' power. Let me tell you why...
This week, the White House teamed up with healthcare industry giants for a two-day PR blitz on health reform. A coalition of industry leaders sent a letter to president Obama over the weekend, pledging to help contain healthcare costs. The signatories include PhRMA (drug makers), Advamed (device manufacturers), the AMA (doctors), the AHA (hospitals), AHIP (health insurance), and SEIU's Health Care project. The corporate signatories are the very same interest groups that have fought U.S. healthcare reform for generations. AHIP, America's Health Insurance Plans, helped torpedo the Clinton plan in the 1990s with the infamous "Harry and Louise" TV spots.
Last night I saw Mike Lux speak at our local Drinking Liberally to promote his book The Progressive Revolution. Lux had the crowd rapt with examples of how the progressive movement throughout history has successfully pushed our often resistant leadership toward justice and equality. His call to action: now it is our job to push Obama and Congressional Democrats for without us, the unique potential that exists at this point in time for a "big change moment" will be lost.
I asked Mike what he thought about the Arlen Specter switch and he said he thought it was mostly a good thing, that he's likely to be with us 20 to 25% more often than he was when he was in the Republican caucus, but that we've got to keep the pressure on and the best way to do that is not letting him run unopposed in the primary. I completely agree.
Along those lines, I'm glad to see that Joe Sestak is not going away. Rather, he went on MSNBC today and reiterated his concern about what Specter is going to be for as a Democrat implying that if he's a bad Democrat, he should be challenged.
...SEIU has always been an organization that supports candidates and elected officials based on their commitment to working families, not their party labels.
The issues that face working people in Pennsylvania have not changed, and the support we need from our representatives in Congress hasn't changed, either.
We know there have been contradictory and confusing reports about what Senator Specter's decision means for the priorities of working families in our state. In a word: our fight for Employee Free Choice and quality, affordable healthcare continues, as strong as ever.
He goes on to say that SEIU will continue to put pressure on Specter on EFCA through phone calls, letters and protests until...
...Sen. Specter supports the principles of the Employee Free Choice Act: allowing workers, not employers, to choose how and when to form a union; enforcing real penalties for employers who break the law; and ensuring that those who've chosen a union can actually secure a contract.
Over the past several months, Harvard's Student Labor Action Movement has been fighting layoffs in solidarity with Harvard workers with support of many members of the student body, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and more. Through protests, a petition, vigils, letters, and more, SLAM has brought the message that workers are valuable members of the Harvard community to the forefront of campus and even Cambridge politics.
Sometimes in the midst of a broader organizing effort there's a moment that clarifies exactly what you're fighting for. NUHW activist and union member Eloise Reese-Burns has just such a moment to share with us tonight.
Eloise Reese-Burns has worked as a certified nursing assistant at Cottonwood Healthcare in Woodland California for 39 years. This month, along with 350 of her co-workers, she become one of the first official members of NUHW, a member-led union of healthcare workers formed just this year.
Building NUHW will not be easy. But Eloise Reese-Burns explains why it is necessary...