Alliance between SEIU and nursing home chains now defunct

A troublesome alliance between the Service Employees International Union and a consortium of nursing home chains is now defunct, reports Mark Brenner director of Labor Notes.

The three year old agreement, first described to the public in a 2005 SF Weekly cover story, involved using SEIU's political might in Sacramento to obtain increased MediCal subsidies for nursing home chains. The union also lobbied to keep baseline quality of care standards out of a 2005 MediCare subsidy bill, and pushed for nursing home tort reform, which would make it harder for patients to sue in cases where they are neglected, maimed or raped.

In exchange, nursing home chains allowed the SEIU to sign collective bargaining agreements in selected facilities. However, leaders of the northern California SEIU local United Healthcare West had criticized the agreement during recent months, saying template, nursing-home-chain approved contracts gave away workers' rights without obtaining sufficient gains in wages or working conditions.

In an article on the website Counterpunch, Brenner reports that the SEIU has now backed out of the agreement, citing criticisms contained in a letter to members first reported in SF Weekly:

"The overall effect was to create a growing pool of second-class union members, with the pre-negotiated deals 'discouraging-and in some cases preventing-workers from independently engaging in struggle to improve their working conditions,'" Brenner writes.

-- Matt Smith

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