May 9, 2008
In March, long-standing tensions between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) erupted into open hostilities, when the CNA encouraged 8,300 workers at a chain of hospitals in Ohio to vote against unionization with the SEIU.
The SEIU, who had reached an agreement with the hospitals to hold an election, asked that the vote be postponed and SEIU president Andy Stern said the CNA's actions were,"nothing more than a flimsy cover for out-and-out union busting." The CNA claims that, "SEIU has repeatedly signed deals with employers that compromise RN and other employee standards and rights."
The CNA is also attempting to organize nurses already represented by the SEIU at other hospitals, including hospitals in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Both unions have launched media campaigns to discredit one another in the wake of these confrontations. SEIU put up a Web site criticizing the CNA, who maintains their own anti-SEIU Web site.
The feud has intensified to the level of physical confronations on more than one occassion:
And, as Shane Goldmacher reports in the SACRAMENTO BEE, union leaders are worried that the fight could hinder the labor movement's election year activities:
Service Employees International Union, with 1.7 million members, has instructed local chapters across America to withhold funding from state and local labor federations to protest what they call union-poaching activity by the California Nurses Association.
The move could cost labor central committees the backbone of labor's sophisticated political and get-out-the-vote operation millions of dollars on the eve of June 3 legislative primaries in California and the Nov. 4 presidential contest.
The rift between the two unions is not new, as Chris Kutalik and Mischa Gaus report in LABOR NOTES:
SEIU and CNA have long been at odds, often in direct competition to represent the same workforce and disagreeing vehemently over single-payer health care legislation, labor-management partnerships, and neutrality agreements that allow a union to recruit members without employer opposition.
Finding common ground is further complicated, reports Jennifer Robison in the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL "because each group belongs to different umbrella organizations -- the SEIU to Change to Win, and the CNA to the AFL-CIO. So there's no joint mechanism from a higher level to curb the bickering and force compromises."
Published May 9, 2008.