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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Filipino Nurses Abroad Stories: Pinoy nurses stand up against 'intimidating' union

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LAS VEGAS — Union strife continues to hound the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Already reeling from internal wars between its California locals, the Washington DC-based organization this time faces disgruntled Filipino nurses in Nevada.

Unionized registered nurses (RNs) at the St. Rose Dominican Hospital has filed charges of fraud and other wrongdoings against SEIU and the Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) reportedly committed during the union local’s election held last December 2 and 3.

The nurses also accused their parent union of “creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation," and alleged that SEIU threatened nurses that they “will lose pay and benefits" if they continue to cause dissent.

Some 40 percent of St. Rose Dominican’s 1,100 RNs are Filipinos. St. Rose Dominican Hospital is owned and operated by Catholic Healthcare West and is located in Clark County here.

In behalf of the nurses, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) is calling for a new election, adding that SEIU and CHW violated federal labor law. The CNA/NNOC filed their complaints with the National Labor Relations Board citing 12 objections to the election conduct that they say “tainted the environment of the representation election."

NNOC/CNA is the nation’s largest RN union and professional association with 85,000 members in all 50 states.

The election ended in a virtual tie with 11 challenged ballots still to be counted, a “stunning repudiation of SEIU despite its heavy handed harassment and intimidation tactics, and threats against the nurses, all with the active assistance of CHW," said Jill Furillo, CNA/NNOC’s Nevada and Catholic division director.

SEIU’s locals in various states represent home care and nursing home workers. A substantial number of the nearly 4 million Filipinos in the US are employed as health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and home health agencies.

Furillo accused SEIU of threatening nurses that they would lose pay and benefits if they voted to change unions.

The nurses’ group also charged that CHW provided unlawful assistance to SEIU by, (1) Granting time on the agenda to SEIU representatives in hospital staff meetings to campaign against CNA/NNOC; (2) Failing to remove SEIU representatives from the hospital in certain locations while CNA representatives were removed; and (3) Restricting hospital access to off-duty nurses who supported CNA, while allowing access to nurses who supported SEIU.

“We do not trust SEIU. They lied to us and threatened many nurses of losing our retro pay and everything else unless we voted for them," said Lalaine Blanco, a Filipino ICU RN in St. Rose San Martin Hospital. “Despite this undemocratic atmosphere, the tied election shows how strongly RNs want representation from a professional RN union which knows and understands RN issues."

The current CNA/NNOC-SEIU/CHW rift marks the second time in 2008 that federal authorities have been brought in to investigate SEIU 1107for election misconduct. Last spring, the local was under investigation following charges that former 1107 Executive Director Jane McAlevey rigged a Local 1107 Executive Board election to seat her hand-picked slate.


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