SEIU Launches Takeover of United Healthcare Workers-West

The Service Employees’ internal battle broke wide open late Tuesday when International President Andy Stern put the dissident United Healthcare Workers-West into emergency trusteeship.

Financial assets for the 150,000-member local were immediately seized, the executive board was dissolved, and full-time officers were removed from payroll. Reports circulated among workplace leaders that SEIU also dismissed UHW stewards, and that employers are holding captive-audience meetings to introduce new SEIU-appointed staff representatives.

Stern named Executive Vice Presidents Eliseo Medina and Dave Regan as trustees of UHW. Regan said rank-and-file worksite leaders remain in place.

As word of the trusteeship spread, hundreds of members and supporters rallied at the union’s Oakland headquarters, vowing to resist SEIU’s hostile takeover.

UHW leaders announced the formation of an independent union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and signaled their intention to decertify SEIU in hospitals and nursing homes, declaring that they would not permit appointed staffers to decide which union members belonged to.


The trusteeship came a day after UHW rejected an ultimatum from SEIU’s top body to split their local in two. Following meetings with more than 5,000 stewards and other rank-and-file leaders, UHW’s elected officers refused the order, reiterating earlier proposals that would guarantee members a right to vote before a merger would take place.

SEIU’s ultimatum mandated that UHW move 65,000 nursing home and homecare workers into a new statewide local for long-term care workers. Such a local would be led by Stern appointees, and UHW argues it would produce weaker contract standards, citing their experience with the International’s partnership in the California nursing home industry.

“Merging long-term members into another local will lower the bar, making us take a step back,” said Ruby Guzman, a nursing assistant at Creekside Nursing Home in San Pablo. “This will affect me, my family, and my patients. I cannot allow this.”

Before Tuesday's trusteeship UHW proposed a series of steps to mediate the conflict between their local and the International.


The trusteeship followed recommendations from Ray Marshall, the former secretary of labor hired by SEIU to investigate alleged financial improprieties at UHW. Marshall concluded that UHW set up a not-for-profit organization in 2007 to finance looming battles with the International, but did not find these violations sufficient to warrant trusteeship.

In a surprise move, Marshall still recommended trusteeship for UHW—if they failed to comply with the earlier decision by SEIU’s top body to split off the UHW long-term care workers.

UHW leaders said it is unprecedented to have a trusteeship request denied, and argued that Marshall linked two unrelated disputes by tying his recommendations to the fate of UHW’s long-term care members.



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“We suspect that the hearing report from Secretary Marshall got amended by SEIU lawyers to get their desired outcome,” UHW's former head Sal Rosselli said. “Frankly we don’t have a lot of respect for it being some independent report or process.”

Medina, a trustee, said the financial improprieties by UHW leaders were sufficient grounds alone for trusteeship. UHW's refusal to comply with the forced transfer of long-term care workers provided additional justification for the International's actions.


UHW members see few other options than leaving SEIU.

"Our health care workers want to be a part of a democratic, progressive movement," said Angela Glasper, an optical receptionist at Kaiser Permanente in Martinez, California. "Every thing that has happened in these last several days has proven that it's not possible for that to happen in SEIU. All workers deserve to be part of a union that workers control, not leaders in Washington, D.C."

Under the SEIU constitution, the bar for disaffiliation is high. If seven or more members wish to remain in SEIU, disaffiliation is not possible.

Members and ousted leaders of UHW announced plans Wednesday afternoon to form a new union.

Chartering an independent local would require members to file for an election during the “open period” prior to contract expiration. It would require separate votes wherever UHW currently has an employer under contract, representing hundreds of worksites across the state. With more than 100 contracts re-negotiated in 2008 such a process would take years to complete.

Even before the Marshall report was released SEIU began preparing for a hostile takeover of UHW, renting large offices in both Oakland and Los Angeles and dispatching dozens of staff to California.

Although many staffers were initially told that UHW-related assignments would be voluntary, the International informed organizers that failure to travel to California will be “considered a resignation.”


Labor's allies worry that the war between UHW and the International could derail labor’s efforts to secure health care reform and pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) early in 2009.

Hearing officer Ray Marshall concluded his report by noting that “the main beneficiaries of this conflict are anti-union employers and politicians who have geared up to use this conflict against our efforts to pass legislation to help workers, especially the Employee Free Choice Act.”

Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor scholar at the University of California Santa Barbara, shares similar concerns. “This internal fight will come back to haunt labor when EFCA gets rolling,” Lichtenstein noted. “The right wing is paying close attention, and this gives them plenty of fresh meat.”


Douglas Mitten (not verified) | 04/01/09

I worked in the Sacramento Office of Local 250 for over 13 years. I started under Toomy, then a trusteeship, then Sal became president. With in a year of Sal's election the disgruntaled phone calls from members significantly decreased. There were honest elections for Ex Board positions and the Staff (Field Reps, Clerical and Organizers) had a much improved work place. No longer were we threatened with discharge for expressing our views. We were offered positions of advancement, members volunteered for phone banks, picket lines and supported the Union with more than just lip service and dues. Sal and the bargaining team negotiated the best contract Kaiser employees ever had, and this enable the Hospital, EMS and Long term care divisions to obtain significant gains to their contracts as well. I know this first hand as I entered the majority of these contracts into the Union's computer system.

Stay with Sal and your executive board - they are your true allies.

Antinomian (not verified) | 02/10/09

Please inform a new IHSS home aide, just now made probation. Is SEIU mad at us in SF? Must I position myself some which-way in relation to this struggle to join a principled side ... is this immaterial now? I declined some of the furious E-invitations to phone bank earlier this month as it seemed alarmist, but I see now on L N it was a real fight ... Last week my shop steward said nervously he'd inform me of the trusteeship fall-out but never returned any of my calls since my hire. Client hours cut, hiring freeze, and my low seniority ... Anything I need to know before the next SF meeting ... like the time and place ... hello SF ...

George Wong Jr. (not verified) | 02/10/09

I am a trusteed UHW shop steward and executive board member. It has become very evident that SEIU looks upon local unions and its members as property. Property to be sold to the highest bidder, or in Andy Stern's case, to his appointed followers who will do his bidding.

When I joined my Union ( Seiu-UHW-West), I did so with the expectation that I would have a voice in my workplace. That I would be able to make democratic choices in determining the future of all workers. That the model of member driven democratic Unions would close the gap of the ever widening distribution of wealth in this country.

Democracy of Unions has now been reduced to how much they are worth in equity and dues paying members. The price to keep democratic unions from forced mergers or trusteeships is to sell out its members and their futures and surrender their democratic rights of self determination.

Workers struggle against their employers every day. Why do they have to face the same struggles from their Union Leadership?

We tried to reform SEIU because the root problem in that organization is the leadership. A leadership that is out of touch with the real every day struggles of workers. A leadership that views workers as pieces of on a game board. A game board where only the leadership plays and wins.

The formation of NUHW (National Union of Healthcare Workers)may very well be the last AUDACIOUS HOPE! for a democratic labor movement in this country.

To have no Democracy in one's own Union is having NO UNION! We are only paying our union dues for a chance to work.

Please do not let this happen to you.

George Wong Jr.
Shop Steward
Kaiser San Francisco

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/04/09

I was in Deerborn when SEIU raided the LaborNotes conf. and I was in the San Jose when they Raid my Union Hall. Don't fool yourself SEIU makes the Teamsters of the 70's look like pussy cats.

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/02/09

Dear My Union Brother and Sisters,
It is time for us to unite together as one. We must educate our Brother's and Sister's who have not taken action thus far. We live in America because we believe in the Democratic way. SEIU has already taken this away from us.What happened to the voice's of our 150,000 worker's. Wake up UHW,Stern hasn't listened to us this far what makes you think he will listen now. Brother's and Sister's like the song says"Get up,stand up, don't give up the fight" Don't Give Up The Fight!Don't give up in what you believe in.One Union!
Si Se Puede!

richardstans (not verified) | 01/30/09

UHW's financial malfeasance was minor & undertaken primarily to try to stop what happened anyway. The real waste/theft of members' dues money is what Stern's carpetbaggers are spending to destroy the last vestige of democracy in SEIU.

And Buck, time to fess up. Stern doesn't want EFCA and you know it. SEIU has been able to get card check from employers by selling the workers out. Once real unions can get card check w/o selling anybody out, Stern's model collapses. If EFCA fails, the blame should be put solely on that ivy league megalomaniac.

buck_eichler (not verified) | 02/02/09

Richard, our union has put massive resources into getting EFCA and National Healthcare through. We are practically "going for broke" to see those through.
Look, I don't agree with Andy Stern on every single point. Come to think of it, I can't think of anybody I agree with all the time. But does it ever strike you that this issue is getting hyped way out of proportion? Sal has committed significant resources to keeping this issue alive and watching it grow legs and walk. For example, in the early going of this issue, we were told repeatedly of a particular massive protest, but a little research showed the estimated crowd at 40 people. Sal has gained considerable expertise over the years in media manipulation. It's symbiotic. You know, juicy stories sell copy. Please be careful not to feed off UHW's mantras. I've found their stories to be very thin on facts.

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

yours is a perfect example of seiu lies. anyone can see on u tube the video of our thousands of uhw members at manhattan beach, san jose, san mateo, etc. at an seiu "rally" here yday there were more uhw folx than all other seiu locals combined. so you arbitrarily refer to some rally with supposedly 40 folx. i guess hundreds of labor experts at many universities across the US are falling for the hype. media savvy? how many news shows has stern been on touting the notion that only he is right and everyone else is wrong.

Paul Ortiz, Ran... (not verified) | 02/04/09

I am a rank and file, democratically elected shop steward in UHW. I am living the chaos that SEIU has created daily. Kaiser has suspended all grievance meetings, managers are pulling members in and disciplining them without stewards, Kaiser has declared all shop stewards member advocates and not with rights. And you say SEIU wants to help, well then why have they not taken the time to return any of the 5 phone calls I have made asking for input and direction. Yet they have time to call my members and tell them that if they sign the decert petitions they will not represent them, which is illegal under the NLRA. So before you accuse anyone of blowing things out of proportion perhaps you should talk to the people who are dealing with the everyday consequences of SEIU's actions and lack of action. Also, it has come to the attention of the members that all of the new retirement benefits and wage increases we democratically voted to approve this last year and kaiser agreed upon is the subject of an upcoming meeting with SEIU and SEIU has not bothered to ask any of our members to be on the bargaining team. But I am sure they will send their attorney's to bargain for the right to beat their membership into submission in exchange for taking away our hard earned victories.

J-Fed (not verified) | 02/06/09

Paul Ortiz

The point of a de-certification petition is to bust a union. If you want Union representation, passing a decert petition doesn't make sense.

SEIU dose have to represent members, but if you vote NO on the union in the decert election you wont have representation.

It is very likely, especially in a 3-way election, that a majority of people will vote no union.

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

wanna bet? that is a completely unfounded assumption that we will vote for no union protection. we in uhw, because our elected union leaders work with us to protect workers rights, we get it that being in a union is important. you must be from one of the stern lackey locals where your appointed so called leader puppets keep u in the dark and feed u crap so no wonder your folks would go with no union.
our vote will certify nuhw and kick stern a few miles offshore.

Anonymous (not verified) | 01/30/09

This whole issue is about personalities. Sal pissed off Andy at some point, so rather than have one local on the West Coast, like there is, for all intents and purposes, on the East Coast (1199UHE), they trump up some BS and put the local in trusteeship. It's crap. All other SEIU locals do NOT support what the international is doing. I believe wholeheartedly that Andy is a smart guy and wants the labor movement to progress, but his ego is out of control. Get a grip on it!

Juan Moment (not verified) | 01/30/09

Dear UHW members and supporters,

my thoughts are with you. People like Andy Stern and their lackeys know why they are trying to destroy your dream - they are not in it. Keep up your spirit and the fight. Remember, UHW members united can never be defeated.

Best wishes from Australia,


Buck Eichler (not verified) | 01/29/09

UHW is a very large local, representing about 7% of SEIU's total membership. But the great bulk of SEIU membership supports our leadership. Our agenda is not anti-democratic, in fact much of Sal's disconent comes from the results of democratic processes. We vote on basically everything we do. For example, we often override staff recommendations in our General Councils, though we don't do so in hatred, we just have a differing opinion, and our processes allow for members desires to take precedence.
There is sound logic in combining small, fragmented locals into larger, more powerful units. But there is pain in that process. Some very good local officers lose their office, and the largest locals usually get their way in the voting process. This is the classic problem of the tyranny of the majority, a problem unique to democratic organization. It's ironic that accusations of being anti-democratic are being made when a good share of the upset is due to the rigorous following of democratic processes.
There is also good reasoning in improving a locals focus by grouping them by job types.
Sal Rosselli converted more than 6 million dollars in members money and concealed this from his membership and SEIU. To his credit, he did not do this for personal gain, but to his discredit, it was done to fund a fight against his own union. This constitutes serious malfeasance.
Of even greater concern are the rumors of the most recent activities of suspending contracts across UHW in an effort to re-negotiate them under the banner of a declared new union. Not only is it highly unlikely that this new union will stand against legal challenges, but Mr. Rosselli has exposed many UHW members to much potential harm by refusing to ratify contractual agreements. He is placing high faith in the good will of management, faith that is probably undeserved.
Whatever the outcome, I hope that members of UHW will evaluate the available materials as objectively as possible and form their own conclusions.
Meanwhile, as many have noted, UHW's sustained media blitz may cost all Americans the benefits of passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. This would be an American tragedy. Opportunities like this come about very rarely. How often are the House, Senate and executive branch so well aligned? Perhaps once in a lifetime?

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

give me a break with the democracy - how many of the ieb are appointed by stern? funny how all his appointees always vote for stern's agenda. funny, in a sort of tragic way, how delegates to the convention would stand when their stern appointed puppet stood and 2 seconds later when their puppet realized he was voting for a uhw sponsored amendment he'd sit back down followed by a comical rapid fire sitting and standing of confused block voters. seiu's puppet "democracy" show is pathetic - i guess they have no self respect at the end of the day.

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

i guess if u repeat a lie long enough it must become like truth. stern's own trustee hearing officer said the financial questions did not justify trusteeship and were a symptom of the conflict. where i come from we call what you are doing "blaming the victim". i am touched by your concern for efca - so why didn't you and stern think about that before you blew millions of our dues attacking us by sending slick mailers to our homes and jamming our home and work phones with your lovely robocalls accusing our union of fabrications? nice job - brilliant.

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

seiu's democratic process you say? is that the one where 7 members keep 150,000 from disaffiliating? or is it the one where 65,000 uhw members vote 97% to stay in uhw and stern's so called vote has barely ten % voting and both options on the ballot dismantle uhw? or the one where stern appoints most of the IEB and they offer free trips to puerto rico for members who agree to vote in bloc? is it the one where countless times stern has forced mergers of locals thru pooled voting so no one local's votes even matter? reminds me of jim crow remnants where in many US cities blacks and latinos were kept off councils by using at large voting. or is it the one where stern's own paid trustee says no to trusteeship, then stern won't release the report so he can ask the trustee to decide a question that was outside the purpose of the hearings? To which of these "highly democratic" processes do you refer pray tell? there is something seriously wrong with you and stern's puppets that you can even dare to talk about democracy. US soldiers who died to protect democracy should rise up out of the ground and point their accusing bony finger at you for raping the word.

Why is everyone... (not verified) | 01/29/09

What’s happening in California looks to be a clash of inflated egos with rhetoric of union democracy being thrown around to gain our support for a local that wants to be the big dog in the room. I am disappointed in Labor Notes for taking the bait.

As the labor movement has been collapsing around us, SEIU continues to be one of the few unions still growing in the United States. They are experimenting with tactics- some work, others don’t- but you have to give credit for trying something new.

Take a step back before coming to quick judgment.

…and has anyone seen the movie/documentary American Dream? There seems to be a parallel where the only people who are going to lose here are the workers.

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

the growth you refer to in seiu is due more to uhw than any other aspect of seiu per member. easy for you to dismiss concerns since you aren't in seiu. seiu experiments, thats for sure, with coercion, lies, manipulations, disingenuousness, and in the end union busting.
as to why are we anonymous - you really don't get it do you? we can call your viewpoint a failure of empathy - we are being threatened with retaliation for dissenting from stern's dictates - get it? someday your local will be taken over by stern too and you'll wonder what happened to those democracy loving uhw folx that coulda hepped yall had we not been dismantled by your hero stern.

Anonymous (not verified) | 01/29/09



Jerry Silberman (not verified) | 01/29/09

Thank you Andy Stern, for your megalomaniac campaign to finally kill off the suffering labor movement in the USA. The patient has been on life support for years, and it takes a courageous doc like you to pull the plug. I suppose it will be years before we learn that your true backers and confidants have been Lee Scott and Bernie Marcus.

michael Torres (not verified) | 01/28/09

Sometimes in order to move forward you have to break things down and debunk the myths and assumptions that exists, especially for unions. Not all unions(SEIU) are democratic and allow rank and file members to speak openly and without repercussions.

Dissent is not a dirty four letter word, its constructive and a highly rational process word that aims to question the ethos of a particular belief system or paradigm.

Divorce is inevitable and irreconcilible in some cases. SEIU and UHW-West are two forces of nature, each with its own gravitational pull. The dark side (SEIU) has a tendency to draw negative gravitational forces vibrating at lower frequencies (that of reptiles), drawing power from all negative energy and the inclination of the negative powers, in its attempt to usurp energy, light and enlightenment.

On the other hand, UHW-West (was) action in motion. UHW-West was a juggernaut of light and centripetal forces, drawing a vast array of different energies, each building and making the end product more forceful evolved and stronger than its original incarnation.

While, UHW-West is no longer in existence, unlawfully dismantled by the dark side (SEIU) and is being reconstructed into a new bastardized version, if your will, UHW-West2.0,led by Stern-burger clowns and road show carnies, Dave Regan and Eliseo Medina. Andy Stern and Anna Burger's frankenunion re-animation frightmare, complete with drones and PR press junkit artillery spreading misinformation and giving true meaning to the word embellishment.

As for the 150,000 members of the nations fastest growing, now defunct union, their deposed leaders will rise from the ashes and like a phoenix, resume their destiny once more, among the stars and lead, once again, a true-blue labor movement, free of tyrants fascists, megalomaniacs and imposters.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The trusteeship of UHW in California is a dark day for ALL of Labor and a nuclear attack on a thriving, growing, progressive, democratic, and MEMBER driven union. This corporate union action has placed UHW members temporarily in a Guantanamo Bay environment without any other rights but the right to pay dues. The trusteeship merely replaces the “monitor-ship” we were already subjected to and is a political power grab by Andy Stern. It is a natural, logical consequence of an International Constitution and Bylaws that has no checks or balances. It disenfranchises each and every single SEIU member internationally, and hopefully, will lead to a revolution for reform within SEIU which will demand transparency and accountability to the membership.

Soon the SUPERMAJORITY of ‘dissident’ members of UHW will organize from the ashes and as the dust settles, we will once again become a fully functional vehicle for change in the lives of ALL health care workers, our families, and the patients in the communities we respectfully serve. I have been a trade labor unionist and social activist who has been a member of SEIU for more than 3 decades. I know in my heart where I will stand as a UHW member when we will sing Florence Reece’s song “Which Side Are You On?” Before this injustice happens in your local, please make the time to consider this question before this happens to you. My hope is that I will meet you there.

In Unity.

whichside? (not verified) | 01/28/09

The California debacle has been tearing the labor movement apart long enough, particularly for health care workers. It's unfortunate that at such a crucial time in our nation's history we can't just all unite in solidarity and move forward. After all, which side are we on?

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

hard to unite when stern is attacking your local dude. oh, i forgot - he's saving the labor movement..

Anonymous (not verified) | 01/28/09

Gimme a break. If the financial shenanigans and lies committed by Roselli and crew were committed by a Teamster local leadership or another SEIU local, Labor Notes itself would be calling for a trusteeship.

Anonymous (not verified) | 02/07/09

the hearing officer concluded sterns charges were not grounds for trusteeship so what are you talking about. shenanigans? what do you call stern's railraoding and concentration of power? oh yeah, i forgot, he's singlehandedly saving the labor movement - yawn...

Anonymous (not verified) | 01/29/09

ATTENTION ALL: It must be noted that the comment titled "Hypocrisy" was probably done by an International staffer. It is just so sad that they don't realize that every move they make is being monitored by the Far Right as ammunition against EFCA. Congratulations SEIU, you just fucked the labor movement. And to my Brothers and Sisters of SEIU: stand up and take action and remove Andy Stern as President! He is a cancer that needs to be taken out!

UHW will thrive again one day! In Sal We Trust! Si Se Puede!