The National Union Of Healthcare Workers, a renegade splinter union formed in January when the Service Employees International Union ousted the leadership of its 120,000-member United Healthcare West affiliate, claims to be near stealing away 50,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente.
The new union is holding a press conference at 11 a.m. today to announced that more than half the workers at Kaiser Permanente have signed petitions expressing their wish to leave SEIU and join the NUHW.
Under federal law, if 50 percent or more of the employees in a bargaining unit sign a petition that they no longer want to be represented by a particular union, the employer may withdraw recognition of that union.
The NUHW splinter union is led by Sal Rosselli, the former UHW-West leader who was ousted after speaking out against what he called authoritarian policies of the Washington-run SEIU. If successful, Rosselli's gambit to add Kaiser workers to his new union would go a long way toward reassembling the labor giant he led prior to his January ouster.
It would also advance what has become an unusual paradox during what should be the American labor movement's pinnacle moment: Recession-era workplaces roil with discontent, union-backed Democrats rule Congress, the U.S. President is the most labor friendly in generations, and unions such as the SEIU have announced $50 million war chests to be spent re-vamping labor laws.
But rather than striding ahead in lock-step, labor unions are expending their energy in-fighting. In addition to its West Coast battle with Rosselli's group, the SEIU is engaged in multiple ground wars with the California Nurses' Association. Laundry and garment afiliates of the Unite Here union have sued for a breakup as well.