Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A fierce battle between the nation’s largest nurses’ unions

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 5:19 AM

While most industries are feeling the pressure of the recession, at least one group of workers will be assured jobs, no matter how stressful or poorly compensated they may be. For nurses, illness is the one thing that never goes out of style during a depression. Now the nation’s two biggest nursing unions – the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) – are engaged in an old-school battle to secure members, and ground zero for that fight is Ohio... For three years, SEIU has been courting the loyalty of the more than 8,000 nurses employed by Ohio’s nine Catholic Healthcare Partners – which includes Community Health Partners in Lorain and Humility of Mary Health Partners in Youngstown. But right before the nurses were to vote on SEIU membership last month, members of CNA appeared at worksites, handing out flyers claiming that SEIU had made a back door deal with corporate bosses and weren’t to be trusted. SEIU members were furious, calling the flyers false and libelous. In response, they raided a CNA rally in Detroit. Fighting broke out, with one person ending up in the hospital with stitches. Since then, both organizations have run ads against one another on sites like Daily Kos. And last week SEIU filed suit against CNA, claiming they illegally acquired their membership list and were trying to raid their members. In response, Ohio’s Catholic Healthcare Partners decided to simply cancel the union vote all together. There’s no word when – or if – they’ll host another one. To labor specialists, it all seems like another epic quest of self-sabotage, a longtime specialty of organized labor. “The idea that unions would fight over organizing rather than try to organize un-unionized members is hard to justify morally,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University. “Instead of shooting at the healthcare system .. which benefits no one, the [two unions] are spending all their resources creating a war with each other.” Somewhere, evil insurance executives are smiling widely. – Rebecca Meiser

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