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The Healthcare Union War

The battle has begun. Healthcare has become the goose that lays the golden egg and the SEIU, CNA and other unions are determined to get it.

Ricardo Torres President & CEO - PSLC

5/9/2008

The battle has begun. Healthcare has become the goose that lays the golden egg and the SEIU, CNA and other unions are determined to get it.

For years, the unions have been fighting for new members. I remember years ago when I was an organizing director, the SEIU was pushing the AFL/CIO and other trade unions to agree to restrict their organizing efforts to their core industries. Each union would sign an agreement defining their core groups and then create a charter in the AFL/CIO to punish any union who was in violation of that charter. This fight has been ongoing for years; it is only now highlighted because of the recent public display of violence in the Detroit suburb at a Labor Notes conference.

Labor Notes is a far left wing advocacy group for union members and holds no official connection or affiliation to any labor union. Their small office headquarters is in Detroit above the headquarters of another fringe group call the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). Both Labor Notes and TDU work with Marxist groups across the country.

When I was a Strike Coordinator we had to beware of the anarchists infiltrating themselves into strike support groups. They came in and presented themselves as strong friends of the labor movement with many resources that they were ready to spend. On strike lines they were the ones who attempted to start fights with the police and destroy property. They would try to keep the fight going on indefinitely. In the Detroit Newspaper strike, which lasted for almost 7 years, they attempted to turn worker against worker and worker against the union leaders. It is important to understand that these groups are screaming out against the fight between the Unions, but the truth is that this is what they live for. They believe that the Hospital management and businesses in general need to be dismantled.

The aim of Anarchism is the creation of a communist society. Anarchists stress the importance of achieving individual liberty and social equality for the working class, through the abolition of authority. This includes labor union authority.

This translates into trouble for hospitals. Union organizing victories are the ticket to power and a seat at the highest tables of power. As a director, building and implementing the alliance between the USWA and the CNA, our goal was to connect with the CNA to give the USWA credibility in healthcare.

I remember that in Pittsburgh, at a meeting with Leo Gerard (United Steelworkers President) and Rosanne DeMoro (CNA President), Rosanne and Leo were stating their joint-organizing goals, which were to organize all healthcare in California and then to take the “show on the road” to the rest of the country. Rosanne stated that she wanted to change the direction of healthcare today and sit at the table to make those changes. When we opened our first joint offices in California my organizers were having fistfights with the SEIU in the Hospital and Hotel parking lots.

Unfortunately, ugly union organizing campaigns are here to stay. Unions like the SEIU and CNA are always saying how much they are worried about patient care and how much they care about nurses. However, the truth is that they do not care about either. They have drawn a line in the sand; if you don’t agree with them then you are the enemy. They are now in a race and a competition to see who can organize the most new members. But it is not just a race between them. The Teamsters, USWA, UFCW, and every other union are gearing up for this fight in healthcare as well. The tactics are going to get stronger and they will use every trick available to them. Hospitals today need to be ahead of the union’s games and strategies. Education of team members about the reality of union deceit and distortion is an absolute necessity.

What neither the CNA, SEIU or any other union can tell their potential members is how the changing healthcare system across the country can go downhill fast” if these terms and conditions of employment cannot possibly be met. When individuals are at their most vulnerable state, they “eat up” all of the promises and fail to think of the reasoning behind the solutions they are promised.

The question of these times to all healthcare organizations is, “Are you ready for this battle? The CNA, SEIU and other unions are!