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two blue figures facing off

California law limits nurse-to-patient ratios, a benefit not only to nurses but to patients who get more attention from their nurses; in fact, a 2010 study suggested the law was saving lives. Now, California unions are battling each other over whether to let the law be relaxed.

On a call with other California labor leaders last Thursday, Dave Regan, president of SEIU's United Healthcare Workers West, called for unions to be neutral on proposed legislation that would suspend nursing ratios while nurses were on break. He cited the concern that while nurses' jobs would be protected, budget problems would then lead to layoffs of other hospital workers.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United has not responded positively to this suggestion, to say the least:

[CNA/NNU Executive Director RoseAnn] DeMoro countered that private hospitals made billions in profit last year, and a retreat on ratios would embolden management to come after other protections for workers and consumers. She said Regan’s comments caused “horror” among labor leaders, with one saying, “If you’re going to give away the ratios to help the corporations make more profits, why not just give up collective bargaining?” According to De Moro, every participant on the call, except for two from SEIU, voted to oppose weakening the ratios.
This fight is broadening beyond staffing levels, though. As unions that organize the same CNA and SEIU have been in conflict in the past over organizing turf and over broader strategy issues, but for the past three years they've held to a peace agreement, with CNA as a condition of that not helping the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which split off from SEIU in 2009 and has been battling for members ever since. The question now, in addition to the fate of California's nurse-to-patients ratio law, is whether that agreement is disintegrating. RoseAnn DeMoro's comments certainly suggest that's the case.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by Dream Menders, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Progressive Hippie, and German American Friendship Group.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Obvioulsy, since labor is so (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10

    strong at this point in time, they can afford big battles amongst themselves.  My gut instinct is with CNA on this, but labor peace is important.  That peace does seem to be unravelling.

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:37:02 AM PDT

    •  This isn't actually a "battle amongst themselves" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, trumpeter, Larsstephens

      This is one local union, SEIU-UHW, taking a position against the entire rest of the California labor movement. On the call described above, Regan asked the labor federation to help him assist the California Hospital Association (the industry's lobbying group) roll back staffing ratios to save hospital corporations money, and it was rejected decisively by a vote of 60 to 2. The two votes both came from SEIU. Union leaders were reportedly horrified by Regan's proposal. This is less a controversy than it is the conduct of a rogue union that stands alone in its willingness to sacrifice patient safety to help its corporate partners, particularly Kaiser Permanente.

      And Regan's argument about low wage workers' jobs being cut is a total red herring. Regan has already agreed to massive concessions to healthcare and retirement benefits and employment protections at Kaiser, Dignity Health and other healthcare corporations that have cost his members dearly, at a time when the industry is doing better than ever before (Kaiser has made close to $7 billion in profit in the last three years). Regan's reactionary position on nurse-to-patient ratios isn't about protecting workers, it's about carrying out his end of a backroom deal he cut with the hospital industry's lobbying arm. SEIU is a partner to corporate healthcare, and this is Regan doing their bidding.

      Disclosure: I work for the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

    •  From the Working In These Times article (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, Larsstephens
      At least one SEIU official has already privately attempted to distance himself from Regan. In a June 18 e-mail to two officials from NNU’s Pennsylvania affiliate, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania President Neal Bisno wrote, “No idea what Dave was thinking – you can rest assured that our local and SEIU are strongly opposed to any suspension or other dimunition [sic] of any aspect of the hard-won CA RN to patient ratios law. This is a patient safety and patient lives issue, a valuing of nurses issue, a nurses union issue – not a State budget issue.  Unfortunate incident, and rest assured a subject of intense reaction from SEIU Nurse Alliance leaders and members, including myself, inside our union.” (Bisno, a member of SEIU International's Executive Board, did not respond to a request for comment on the e-mail, which was provided to In These Times by a labor source.)

      -Josh Eidelson, Working In These Times
      Very typical move from employers...who often try to craft exemptions for "meal and break times" in an attempt to unravel worker protections and safety laws; and no surprise that the response from the labor movement has been near unanimous.
  •  De Moro is an advocate for patients and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woodhouse, Larsstephens

    for nurses. (and for all workers) Regan is the head of a very pro-business union & it shows. But I am a teeny bit surprised he is so openly working for the California Hospital Association.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:57:00 AM PDT

    •  See this LA Times article (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, Larsstephens

      Working as a partner to help CA employers who made $4 billion in profits in 2010 make even more profits is business as usual for Regan and SEIU-UHW (emphasis mine):

      Under the new pact, dubbed a Partnership for a Healthy California, the hospital association pledges to facilitate meetings between the SEIU and CEOs of hospitals and health systems employing 100,000 non-union workers. (Those hospitals, the document notes, are not bound to sign organizing agreements.) In turn, the SEIU agreed not to file petition signatures with county election officials and the secretary of state's office.

      On Wednesday, both parties downplayed the organizing component of the deal, instead painting the agreement as the product of an unprecedented partnership dedicated to tackling the most pressing issues in modern healthcare. The SEIU and the hospital assn. vowed to form a labor-management task force to find ways to lower costs, improve quality and expand access.-LA Times

      Any surprise that Regan is now working to undercut patient care and safe staffing ratios?
  •  California should know (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, Woodhouse

    better than to trust anyone named Regan.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 03:56:26 PM PDT

  •  What is the CEO paid? (0+ / 0-)

    What about other salaried employees and administration? Where are the highest salaries and profits going? How about some redistribution on many fronts?

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