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The SEIU's Regan hopes the deal can serve as a model for future negotiations.
The SEIU's Regan hopes the deal can serve as a model for future negotiations.

SEIU, California hospitals forge deal on organizing rules


By Melanie Evans
Posted: May 10, 2014 - 12:01 am ET
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The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West announced it will drop its push for two California ballot initiatives to cap hospital prices and executive compensation under a new deal with hospitals to create an organizing “code of conduct.”

Dave Regan, the labor group's president, and C. Duane Dauner, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, unveiled the deal, which includes a jointly funded $100 million campaign to boost Medicaid reimbursement and promote reforms to the program. If unsuccessful, the state's hospitals and the union agreed to pursue a Medicaid ballot initiative in 2016, Regan said.

The deal includes facilities that operate a majority of the state's hospital beds. The hospital association declined to name the facilities that signed the agreement, which will end Dec. 31, 2017.

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The partners hailed the accord as a potential model for labor-management relations. “What we've done here today will hopefully also serve as an example of what can be accomplished when people hang in there,” Regan said. The union and the hospital association had previously entered into a joint agreement that Dauner acknowledged was disappointing, but led to some progress, he said. Regan touted their efforts as a way to bolster workplace and retirement stability for union members and ease tension at the bargaining table.

The code of conduct, which will govern organizers' communication with hospital employees, would seek to transform historically tense and negative conduct by unions and employers into more constructive and positive relationships, Regan said. “What normally characterizes unionizing efforts is a high degree of conflict, a high degree of tension,” he said. “We think that most people don't want a conflict-laden relationship.” The partners declined to release the code of conduct.

Regan said little about how the code would be adopted or enforced, but the agreement does not limit either employers or the union from taking any actions, such as strikes, allowed under labor laws.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, an SEIU rival, issued a statement calling the agreement “comparable to an act of treason ... This agreement will undermine the rights of workers and will eliminate the union's watchdog role on behalf of patients,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said in the statement. “Moving forward, SEIU will quietly collect dues, but will do little to raise questions.”

Follow Melanie Evans on Twitter: @MHmevans


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