The ballots include three boxes; one for each union and one for “neither.” Kaiser officials declined to comment, but Cleeland said system officials should be well aware of the rules this second time around: “They don't want to go through that again,” she said.
An NUHW victory could add 45,880 members to the union's ranks and give them additional leverage. NUHW—which formed from former SEIU members—currently consists of about 10,000 members, including 4,000 at Kaiser facilities who won't be affected by the election. Rival SEIU counts 150,000 members in California and 2 million worldwide.
Leadership at SEIU remains confident they will come away with another victory. This election, there's been more of a focus with having rank-and-file members lead, said David Regan, SEIU-UHW president: “I'm not frustrated, it is what it is,” he said of the need for a second election. “We won two years ago, we're going to win again.”
Regan said it would be foolish for workers to pick NUHW when SEIU bargained for some of the best wages and benefits in the industry. The current SEIU-Kaiser contract expires in 2015.
NUHW officials also feel they're in a strong position and said this election could have a national impact: “We have calls from other hospital workers in California and beyond,” said NUHW Secretary-Treasurer John Borsos. “No matter what, NUHW will continue to move forward, I don't see it in the cards that SEIU prevails in this election.”
Those backing NUHW said they don't think SEIU provides enough support at the local level and that the union works too closely with Kaiser. One NUHW supporter is Therron “Ron” King, a certified surgical technologist at Kaiser's South Bay Medical Center in Harbor City, Calif. He's now actively campaigning for NUHW after growing frustrated with what he perceives as SEIU caving into Kaiser demands. He opposes SEIU's participation in Kaiser's Labor Management Partnership, a program designed to bring unions and Kaiser administration together. NUHW officials, like King, said they don't like that up to 13 cents per hour of employee wages are deducted to participate in the program.
“SEIU has failed to really represent the membership, which is priority No. 1,” King said.