Saturday, October 3, 2009

One perspective to the homecare bargaining "process"

My recollections of the bargaining process/cycle.

On March 16, 2009 I emailed a marked up copy of the 2007-2009 contract to Reefah's UHW and personal email addresses. I never received a response to this email. I have not been able to see if any of my suggested changes made it into the contract, since a copy of the contract is still quite difficult to obtain.

Next up was a “steward meeting” consisting of the 2 remaining stewards Mark Nelson and Anita Torres who according to Reefah decided that any UHW member supporting NUHW was not allowed onto UHW financed charter buses, etc. I think this is when UHW decided to bargain in secret and to keep the TA away from all but the most persistent members and then only on the night of the vote.

I received a mailer asking for me to circle the 4 things most important to me (wages, benefits, etc) and include my name and contact info if I wanted to be on the bargaining team; no response to my interest in the latter.

By now we knew bargaining was happening, but had no clue as to that was going on since, I suspect the bargaining team members weren't exposed to the ground rules of bargaining and therefore did not know that discussion of bargaining with principals (team member to fellow homecare worker) was allowed. Four of the eight bargaining team members were previous NUHW supporters: Alan Shuman, Mark Nelson, Anita Torres and Karen Timmons. (As keeper of the decert petitions I can prove this!)

From here on out to the election there was a great deal of secrecy until the Labor Day Breakfast at the labor center on Corby Avenue (in Santa Rosa) when Karen Timmons named all of the bargaining members and leaked a few details: the wage reduction when the ARRA funded FMAP money runs out and the likely change in health insurance to United Healthcare should Kaiser rates increase “a lot”

Next up was the election meetings themselves with Mark Nelson pushing around a smaller woman at the Healdsburg library, him telling me “I don't like that” when I took a picture of the ballot at the Petaluma community center. The county Board of Supes found this picture quite shocking because of it's wording. Marie White, our very active and educated (former lawyer for the disabled) 85-year old supporter was blocked from voting until, I believe, a threat to call the cops allowed her in the building being guarded by at least 2 quite muscular guards.

When I met with Gustavo I reminded him I was still a member of UHW, pay my dues and just because I am a dissenter doesn't mean viewing the TA was forbidden. He relented and retrieved the TA but wouldn't let go of it at first. He wanted to narrate; I wanted to read it to and for myself. I told him he was bigger than me, much bigger and I'm not going to run off with the contract; this convinced him to not keep his death grip on the TA.

As good as getting the TA may have been for our cause I believe UHW's spin on it would cause more damage than the advantage we'd have if we had the TA in hand before the end of the vote.

The vote itself was on a ballot that didn't go in an envelope that would disguise the vote until the vote count, went in a cardboard box and all votes would be counted by UHW with no impartial observer. UHW claims exactly 90% in favor, not a more believable lie like 91.2%.

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