Backyard barbecue bashes and offering up flat screen TVs and other prizes was attempted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to try to get Saginaw health care employees to stay in the union. It didn't work.
By a more than 2-to-1 margin, workers at Saginaw's Luther Manor Nursing Home voted themselves out of the SEIU Healthcare union last week. They're now joining the newly formed National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).
The final vote count was 47 in favor of leaving SEIU to 22 for staying. One vote was cast for nonunion status. With the results of the election, the Luther Manor workers became the first SEIU members outside of California to join NUHW.
According to Peggy Norman, a medical receiver and certified nursing assistant at Luther Manor, the SEIU Healthcare put on two barbecue parties for employees as the date of the election approached.
“They called them backyard bashes,” Norman said. 'They barbecued ribs and had door prizes; including a flat screen TV, a boys' bike and a girls' bike.”
Norman was asked if she would have changed her vote if she'd won a TV.
“I wouldn't even go to their bashes,” she responded.
Hasan Zahdeh, a cardiovascular interventional technologist at the Hackley Campus of Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, said he was keeping a close watch on the union election in Saginaw.
“They rejected the SEIU despite all of the misinformation, intimidation and efforts to buy votes,” Zahdeh said. “In addition to the barbecues, where they raffled off big screen TVs, the SEIU offered coffee and donuts on election day.
“Basically, this was a big win for the employees,” Zahdeh continued “It was an overwhelming vote to leave a corrupt union.”
Workers at the facility in Muskegon are waiting to get an election date scheduled to vote on possibly leaving the SEIU, too. Zahdeh said he believes the election in Saginaw could lead to a domino effect with workers at other health care facilities across Michigan jumping the SEIU ship.
“Other groups are just waiting for their contracts to come up,” he said.
Norman said the employees at the Saginaw facility were fed up with SEIU Healthcare.
"We were looking for somebody who would do a better job representing us." Norman said. “I was a stewardess for the union. They wouldn't even honor our vote to reject a contract. Instead of going back to the employer, they waited a week and came back to us. I had employees come up to me wanting to know how they could get out of it (the union).'”
Zahdeh said the SEIU is now attempting to hike its union dues.
“SEIU is trying to do the same thing Barack Obama wants to do,” Zahdeh said. “They know that the MQC3 (Michigan Quality Community Care Council) is being dissolved. That means they'd lose about 48,000 members. So they're trying to change dues to a flat 2.5 percent. That's huge. For instance, it would change my dues from $39.45 a month to $130 a month. It's like Obama wanting to raise taxes on the rich instead of finding ways to cut spending.”
MQC3 was created under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Through a secret election, fewer than 7,000 votes placed more than 40,000 Michigan home health care workers into the SEIU. Then SEIU Healthcare was created, apparently, for the sole purpose of becoming the union Michigan home health care workers would be forced to join through the MQC3.
Obviously the loss of 40,000 dues-paying members is a huge blow to SEIU Healthcare, which had previously claimed to have roughly 55,000 members in Michigan.
“I think they're trying to find a way to squeeze every last dollar out of us before we leave,” Zahdeh said. “When we finally get a chance to vote in Muskegon, we're really going to kick their butts.”
SEIU Healthcare has been plagued by scandals since it was created in 2008. Its first president, Rickman Jackson, was forced to resign within two months of taking office.
As Capitol Confidential previously reported, the timing couldn't be much worse for SEIU, which just lost a major battle with NUHW. In July, NLRB administrative judge Lana Parke found SEIU guilty of coercion and unlawful threats in an October 2010 statewide labor election involving 43,000 California healthcare workers.
According to the NUHW, corruption has been the legacy of how the SEIU operates in Michigan. Former SEIU Healthcare Michigan President Rickman Jackson was forced out of office on Oct. 15, 2008. The story, which was covered by the Los Angeles Times, apparently fell below the news media radar screens in Michigan.
SEIU officials did not respond to telephone calls offering the opportunity to include their comments in this article.