Likening the takeover of their union local to an act of "martial law," leaders of the Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers-West announced the formation of a new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, that would have members in Los Angeles. During a teleconference with media, UHW president Sal Rosselli denounced his removal from office and his local's being placed into trusteeship by its parent union, the Service Employees Union International.
The SEIU, headed by Andy Stern, announced late Tuesday afternoon that
it was seizing control of the 150,000-member UHW, which for the last
four years has resisted Stern's attempts to peel off the 65,000 of its
members who work in the homes of patients to form, with two other
locals, a much larger unit comprised solely of longterm-care workers.
Rosselli said that just prior to the teleconference, he and about 100 other UHW had resigned their SEIU memberships. (Today UHW's Web site no longer carried Rosselli's picture nor his messages to members.)
Washgington D.C.-based executive board, Rosselli charged, had waged an
"unprecedented campaign against this union. They sent hundreds of
to California to confront our members with lies and lawsuits.
'We're not going anywhere,' we said. 'We need to reform SEIU.'
Andy Stern's actions have changed that. Our members hate SEIU now."
response to questions about UHW assets, Rosselli indicated his side
would not contest the international's right to take control of UHW's five offices.
"These five buildings are not the union, our members are," Rosselli said.
UHW conference was immediately followed on another phone line by an
SEIU teleconference. Stern was not present to answer questions at that
event, but two Stern-appointed trustees, David Regan and Eliseo Medina,
along with SEIU executive vice president Mary Kay Henry, answered the
questions of sometimes skeptical-sounding journalists. For the most part the SEIU
spokespeople divided their remarks between the need for
organized labor to look ahead under the Obama administration, and characterizing
Rosselli and his followers as a small group of malcontents who
repeatedly violated union rules to carry out their opposition to Stern.
"It is sad when a group of local officers lose their way," Regan said.
"Forming a new union that would split labor at this time seems ludicrous," said Henry.
denied a key allegation of Rosselli's, saying that SEIU representatives
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had not gone into healthcare facilities to inform HR and management
staff that the current UHW shop stewards no longer represented the rank
and file employees. Regan claimed they had only informed management
that UHW's senior officers had been removed.