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Battle of the nurses unions turns physical

A nasty fight erupted at L.A. County hospitals today when organizers for the California Nurses Assn. launched a campaign to persuade 6,000 county-employed nurses to ditch the Service Employees International Union, the powerful organization that represents them, and join the CNA instead, Garrett Therolf reports.

Police arrested a CNA organizer accused of slapping an SEIU organizer and of stomping on the foot of another. A county official who asked for anonymity claimed CNA organizers dressed up as nurses so they could get into areas of the hospital normally off limits.

"The nurses are leaving SEIU and coming to CNA. That is a fact," said Jill Furillo, CNA's Southern California director. "Los Angeles County hospitals are the most horrendous and horrible facilities. The patients and nurses have been suffering in those places."

That's news to Elizabeth Brennan, a spokeswoman for SEIU Local 721.

"There is no question that the nurses will continue to be represented by SEIU," Brennan said. "Nurses won a record raise last year because they are united as an entire healthcare team with other Los Angeles County employees and other healthcare workers -- and that helps improve the quality of healthcare in the county."

Furillo said, "A real war is going to happen."

Last month, the CNA organized the only private hospital in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. Its attempt to move into other Texas hospitals, where nurses already have union representation, mirrors the fight now brewing in LA County. Similar scenarios are playing out in Nevada and Ohio.

--Garrett Therolf & Veronique de Turenne

Comments () | Archives (26)

Good for the CNA.

For years the SEIU has pretended to serve the interests of the RN's at county and done an absolutely miserable, unprofessional job of it. SEIU has done a better job of serving the interests of unlicensed personell and management who they consistently seem to be getting manipulated by.

At least the CNA has had political movement in Sacramento.

The conditions at County USC are dire and disgusting. Any change is good because it can't get any worse.

SEIU is a joke

I can't believe someone would support the CNA! They've actually STOPPED NURSES FROM FORMING UNIONS in other places! They are underhanded and do illegal things without making a real difference for nurses. I'm SEIU and we have an amazing contract that we won by organizing with everyone, NOT by dressing up like nurses and threatening other people. The CNA should stay out of SEIU hospitals--we don't want them!!

SEIU should do more at County-USC. The place is a mess with mismanagement, nepotism, & cronyism.

County nurses should post all the injustices that occur at the Med Center.

The only way the County changes is when it makes the L.A. Times.

Post your concerns!

I need to remain anonymous due to the retaliation employees at LAC face when they speak out or just verbalize an opinion. It does not matter to me what UNION we have at the Medical Center as long as they strongly represent nursing and are able to hold managment accountable for all the illegal, policy violation, cronyism, demoralizing activities and other .... that upper management (yes, all you people in Adm 1112) do an a daily basis. We have lost many good nurses because the CNO, CEO, COO and others in that office only care about promoting themselves. Every celebration they put on is a lie. Behind closed doors all they do is plan and carry out activities to get rid of staff who don't say "yes" to everything or are stronger in common sense decision making than they are. There is no professional ethics or personal ethics in that office. Don't be surprised when we end up like MLK because violations in every aspect of patient care and providers are everywhere. We stay open because we are the last resort, not because we comply with the standards of care.

I am a SEIU member RN in San Francisco. The Union I belong to is far from perfect in my opinion (and we all have our idea of what "perfect" would be). But I know that if I were a CNA member (which I have been in the past), that I would be saying my Union is far from perfect. At the same time I can point to many things my union does that I am pleased with. If I were now a CNA member I believe that would also be true. We are living in times when budgets are being cut everywhere, many have no or inferior health care, nurses everywhere are stretched and stressed to unthinkable limits AND most nurses in this country have NO Union. These peers of ours all over the country, including California, desperately need to be Unionized so they have an opportunity to make a change in their working conditions, be able to safely care for their patients and go home at the end of the day and know they can support their families, get medical care for their families and someday retire. Both CNA and SEIU should be out there organizing nurses without Unions and helping us fight to be able to provide the high quality care we all committed to providing when we became nurses. This ridiculous budding war should stop and let everyone get on with the real work of a Union. We would all like to be able to genuinely respect the organization we belong to and be able to honestly tell nurses without a Union that they will too.

The Med Center squeaked by on it's Joint Commission Survey. The Surveryor's gave the Executive Team a break because they "convinced (lied to)" them we were moving into the new hospital in April 2008. What a lie - the move is now scheduled for November 2008 - but in reality it willl be in 2009.

They were so many deficiencies that the Surveyors "grouped" several of them together so that we would be under the threshold....

We are so deluted with the lies and misinformation "shoveled" out by the Exec Team, they actually believe it.

These are facts - the L.A. TImes justs need to do some "good investigative" work...you'll be surprised how many people want to scream out the truth about this rathole.

Jill Furillo is obviously a highly-paid snob that CAN'T relate to regular folks' hospital. I bet she walked around the hospital going "ewww, lower classed people".

What's with the CNA trying to divide nurses who already have a union? There are thousands of nurses out there without unions. Why don't they reach out to nursing schools and pre-organize them? This beef between the two unions sounds like a power play between two bosses. LA County RNs have NOTHING to do with what's going on between SEIU and CNA in other states and CNA needs to leave County nurses alone.

If we want change in our hospitals it's not just going to come from unions. Wake up people!!! It takes the concerted effort of COUNTY RESIDENTS and community organizations to make real change at our hospitals. Why is everyone looking for a hero? Everybody sees the big pile of crap in the middle of the room but no one wants to clean it up. LAC+USC is a hospital just like any other. There's blood, disease, sick people and there's a whole staff working hard to keep the hospital and patients healthy.

CNA is, by now, well known as "the union-buster's union. What the article failed to disclose was the number of nurses across the nation that are now without a union because of CNA's unique talent for disrupting union campaign. Nurses in Illinois, Missouri, Texas and most recently in Ohio have felt what its liek to have Union within reach and watch as CNA tears everything apart.

Nurses everywhere face many pressing issues related to patient care and patient safety. CNA's antics distract attention from the real issues that nurses need to be able to address with their hospital administrations, and their elected lawmakers with the protection and support of their Union.

To: Jill Furillo, Southern California Director of California Nurses Association:

I have been a union leader and activist at Boston Medical Center –formerly Boston City Hospital- for close to 37 years. I have been in AFSCME leadership positions, including AFSCME President, at the hospital for over 30 years. I have been involved in numerous contract negotiation struggles - jointly negotiated by AFSCME and SEIU. I have for four years been an SEIU Chapter Chair at Boston Medical Center, and an Executive Board Member of the Mass 1199SEIU. Currently I am an 1199SEIU representative on the Boston Medical Center 1199 Training and Upgrade Fund Committee.

I heard news of your union, California Nurses Association (CNA), sending in organizers for the California Nurses Association in a campaign to persuade 6,000 county-employed nurses to ditch the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the union that represents these employees, and urging them to join the CNA instead.

Recently, it was reported in the press: “A nasty fight erupted at L.A. County hospitals...Police arrested a CNA organizer accused of slapping an SEIU organizer and of stomping on the foot of another.... A county official claimed CNA organizers dressed up as nurses so they could get into areas of the hospital normally off limits.”

You told the reporter covering this incident that :
“ Nurses are leaving SEIU and coming to CNA... That is a fact......A real war is going to happen."

I don’t understand these union busting tactics of the California Nurses Association.
A Nurses Association, part of the AFL-CIO, raiding worksites where nurses are already organized in a union ?

California Nurses Association is playing into the hands of hospital management who would love to decertify CNA from places that CNA is already organized,
such as the Cedar Community Health Center, where management for years has been encouraging and aiding nurses trying to decertify from the California Nurses Association.

What if the shoe was on the other foot ?...How would the California Nurses Association feel if SEIU was organizing disgruntled Cedar Community Health Center nurses to leave CNA to join SEIU ?

I am a 37 year employee at Boston Medical Center, and a member of MA1199SEIU,and I am opposed to labor organizations anywhere playing into the hands of management- one union raiding another union- declaring to the press: “A real war is going to happen”.

I am in complete solidarity with nurses and other union members in SEIU United Health Care Workers-West who are diligently building a strong union, and who are leading a national movement within SEIU to strengthen worker decision making power and democracy in SEIU.

Change in SEIU will happen at the upcoming June SEIU convention. ...

...I hope !!!

But not through a “war” between CNA, an AFL-CIO affiliate, and SEIU.

Howie Rotman
1199er on the 1199SEIU Upgrade and Training Fund at Boston Medical Center

As a 20 year Telemetry RN, I have witnessed first-hand the difference between working at CNA represented hospitals and SEIU represented hospitals, as well as hospitals without any union at all.

Hands down, the RNs at the CNA represented hospital were the strongest and consistently won the best contracts. That was due to our focus on RN issues such as patient care & staffing. As a all RN union, there was not the watered-down bargaining that I expereinced as a SEIU member.

That's not to say that SEIU members don't care about their patients or try to negotiate good contracts; they do. But CNA mobilized us as RNs on those issues that were most important to us; enforcement of safe staffing. This was an issue that resonated with the public as well, and it was that community support for our respected profession that helped us win a great contract.

Quite frankly, with SEIU our issues were lost in the shuffle. We were at the same table as Respiratory Therapists and Housekeepers and other licensed and unlicensed non-RN staff for whom RN ratios are not important. We were united on retirement and health insurance, but divided over safe staffing and wages.

I always hate to see unions fighting each other. Our employers are too dangerous for us to think that we can remain divided and continue to make gains at the table.

And I certainly don't believe that signing some "partnership agreement" protects us from them. Our interests are not the same.

Hopefully, SEIU will stop fighting CNA as well as its own members in UHW. Let RNs make their choice of which union to belong to and it will likely be the right one.; no back room deals with employers who want to select a compliant company union for RNs.

It is more than coincidence that this is occuring prior to the SEIU quadrenniall convention next month in Puerto Rico. It is a power play, pure and simple. The raiding and tactics committed by the CNA (AFL-CIO) backed by UHW-W are all about power and have nothing to do with what is best for the employees or in fact for Unions in general. It is sad to see that despite their rhetoric that they only have the best of intentions, that their actions will only hurt the people and the membership who believe in Unions.

I was appalled at the lack of journalistic objectivity and integrity displayed by Garrett Therolf's column on the LA Times Blog. His accounting of the issues and events surrounding the current hostilities displayed toward Registered Nurses by SEIU International is suspiciously omitted. Quoting anonymous sources from the County regarding events is something that even high school journalism students wouldn't consider. But, for the record, the following are the actual facts that were shared with Mr. Gough:

*For four years CNA and SEIU had a peace agreement in Los Angeles. This included a no raid agreement. During those four years, CNA received over 200 inquiries from RN's who work at LA County facilities. They were extremely upset with the working conditions at the County -particularly, the refusal on the part of County Administration to adhere to safe staffing ratios. These RN's believed that they were being scapegoated by an inept County Administration, for systemic problems. These RN's were disaffected by SEIU representation, stating that SEIU's attention to RN issues were not a priority. CNA's position was that we would support them in every other way-but that we could not file a petition for representation, as we had an agreement with the current union not to.

*SEIU decided to terminate the peace agreement in late 2007, when they filed an intervention petition on a NLRB election filed by CNA for 500 RN's in a hospital in Reno Nevada. CNA won the election despite the interference by SEIU.

*In March of 2008, CNA RNs in Los Angeles started receiving hostile phone calls from SEIU International at their homes. This was followed by hostile mail pieces and SEIU organizers parading through CNA represented hospitals posing as nurses.

*SEIU then announced that they would send 200 operatives to California to destroy CNA. These operatives arrived in Los Angeles on April 7 and had a big "Destroy CNA pep rally last week at the Sheraton in Downtown Los Angeles. These operatives started showing up at nurses homes intimidating and harrassing RN's and their families.

*LA County RNs continued to call CNA stating that they were extremely disaffected with SEIU representation, as they could not get staffing problems resolved. They said that their SEIU representatives were directed to no longer process any grievances as these would be handled by a statewide central call center. Their experiences with the call center was unsatisfactory and nothing happened with their issues. RN's also complained bitterly about the re-classification that resulted in RN's pay as substandard. They were disaffected by a County Administration and Board of Supervisors who had disregard for their demands for safe staffing and appropriate compensation.

*These RN's asked for CNA to represent them and CNA has hundreds of cards signed by RN's working in County facilities stating they want to be represented by CNA.

*CNA RN's went to County facilities to collect these cards-which RNs have a right to sign if they so desire, despite the collusion of County Administration, SEIU and apparantly the LA Times' Therolf.

My remarks to Therolf were : "The Board of Supervisors and LA County Administration have created horrendous and horrible working conditions in County facilities. Their refusal to adhere to safe staffing laws is creating a climate where patients and RN's are suffering. The RN's are being scapegoated for problems created by top administration and bureaucratic responses from both County Administration and SEIU International. These RN's are coming to CNA and that is a fact".

Therolf's one sided reporting displays a dangerous tendency not to report the actual facts instead of a story concocted by SEIU International and "Anonymous" County officials.


Jilll Furillo RN

As a non-member RN at a CNA closed shop hospital, I can only shake my head at the goon-squad tactics on both sides. With SEIU being headed by a former sixties radical and CNA's top dollar earner being -get this-a former Hollywood stunt-woman-nurses should learn a thing or two. If pro-Union nurses want to funnell a portion of their paycheck to support far-left candidates for political office-and that is exactly where their money is going-they have only themselves to blame. Quit funding anarchists. Unions care as much about workers as our pathetic government cares about citizens.

All readers should be aware that poster Rita Connolly works for SEIU in addition to being a member.

I want to correct some misinformation in the April 16th posting of "SFRN".

I do not work for SEIU. I have on a couple occasions and while a RN member worked temporarily for my local. Some of that time was on a part-time basis while working at my nursing job part-time. I have not worked, even in that part-time capacity, for nearly a year.

In any case, it is not clear to me what the point of that posting was? Since I stated that I see good and bad in both SEIU and in CNA, it seems to make little difference if one has ever worked for one organization or the other or currently does.

There will be many accusations of all kinds throughout this unfolding battle between the two Unions both of whom could be spending time more wisely. I think we would all be fortunate if the worst one was that I do work for SEIU and failed to reveal that!

It would serve us all well if we try to be careful in what we report as facts and not be too quick to believe everything we hear......on either side.

I've read this article and it reminded me of the horrors I've had when CNA came into my facility. They (the CNA) came in with a bunch of rude "organizers", handed out a bunch of cards they claimed were for information and promised us California wages. My fellow nurses and I asked for these promises in writing and they said they would get back to me. We knew this wasn't possible because of the cost of living difference between California and our location but they made the promises anyway. Well somehow, they got to the magic number needed to get a vote and nobody knew how when we were told we were signing up for information only. Well with the promises of a nurses only union and how nurses are the only ones in the entire hospital who matter, they talked big enough game to win the election.

Election's over, they won and now the people we talked to said "well, we can't be certain you'll get that pay scale we mentioned earlier as it's something that will be done in bargaining" (direct quote from my micro recorder @ a meeting with a CNA organizer). We got nothing anywhere near those promises and our constant phone calls demanding to know why everyone was promised the world but only given a snow globe went unreturned.

We've finally got sick and tired of this and started our decert. At that point, we started getting phone calls again and given more promises but after all the lies earlier, we've soundly voted out the CNA. We're currently working with SEIU to come into our workplace and they couldn't be nicer. They're not making false promises of California wages. They're promising to bargain in good faith and work with the ENTIRE hospital to improve things. This couldn't be any better as our entire workplace we divided during the "CNA days" and now we're a happy family again.

I'm glad that CNA "organizer" was arrested. After seeing how rude and nasty they were here, I'd love to see them all arrested for their lies and taking our workplace two steps back instead of 1 step forward.

Hey I’m Chris and I guess you can say that I am in the middle of all of this. I helped unionize Cy-Fair and I hope for the benefit of all patients that more hospitals in Texas do the same. You administrators will frown on you and try to intimidate you in order for you to vote against your own interest, but we won by telling the truth and being holistically transparent. The CNA/NNOC will be coming to a hospital near you and embrace them, for they are working for you. I love CNA and Dr. Martin Luther King supported unions

Reading all of this and watching closely the antics of both SEIU and CNA in recent times, I can only shake my head. Are there not enough unorganized nurses in this country to go around?

Health care is the quickest growing sector in the U.S. and the majority of nurses in this country do not have a union. Rather than constantly "organizing on the cheap" by raiding each others members, CNA and SEIU should expend resources on building power among unorganized nurses. By doing what they are doing now, they are embarrassing the labor movement and adding fuel to the anti-union fire that is so prevalent today.

Shame on CNA. Shame on SEIU. Grow up and start spending your members' money responsibly: on organizing unorganized nurses! Stop spending millions bashing each other and get to work! Knock off the expensive direct mail campaigns to nurses across the country, stop paying $20,000 a week for liberal blog ads, and stop putting union staffers' salaries towards beating up on each other. It's all such a joke!!

SEIU continues to harass nurses whether they are in a union or not. We have twice asked them not to call us and they continue to telephone when most normal people are eating dinner or trying to relax after a long day at work. The SEIU flyers now join the other junk mail in the trash and I would suggest they could find better ways to spend their members money. If SEIU is going to continue to act like thugs they should NOT expect working people to support them.
SEIU is acting like it's the 20s and 30s again and they need to get ugly to get their point across when in reality it's just being ugly. Do the members really want these thugs running their union?

I can’t speak for anyone else out there, but if I belonged to an organization purporting to represent my interests and that organization was behaving like both CNA and SEIU apparently are, I would withdraw my memebership in a heartbeat. For the record, I belong to neither.

I just googled SEIU after receiving yet another of the over seven pieces of very negative and unsolicited direct mail from them, as I had no idea what these mailings were about. You see, I have been a disabled RN and have not worked in any capacity for over twelve years. In addition, there is not union representation of ANY kind for healthcare workers in my rural northern California county.

I say: Shame on SEIU AND CNA! These organizations ought to be putting all that energy into making this place better for all – including not contributing to the destruction of the only planet we’ve got! How many forests were razed to make the paper sent to me and that I put directly into the recycle bin? Remember that the first of the “three R’s” is to reduce. How many tons of CO2 were generated by this direct mail campaign (all delivered by trucks and planes with huge carbon footprints)? This affects everyone, not just healthcare workers! And are there not enough people out there working without representation that these organizations have to engage in nursery-room squabbles over the few who already have a voice? Sheesh, I don’t have time for this…

I've been getting "shame on CNA" mail from SEIU healthcare for over two months now...EVERYDAY! And I've never once been a union member. I don't really see why a nurse would want to join either CNA or SEIU, bot intities sound corrupt to me. I'm not really sure what SEIU expects me to do about it, and I don't really appreciate the constant badgering me at the mail box.

Today I tried call SEIU 10 different times to get them to stop sending me all this junk mail...and all I got was a busy signal. I want to know how they got my name and address, and I want them to stop wasting paper and my time.

How much are your union dues? Why are you paying dues? Is this what it's come to now? Sad!

What are the unions doing to help a true class of nurses that are very often overlooked. I am talking about the L.V.N. 's that stay true to the meaning of patient care. I have worked along side RN'S and while some are very awesome others can not touch the L.V.N.s as we truly care. Maybe since we are not so high in demand we do not get spoiled and truly care for our proffession.

The SEIU may be a joke but they have ripped off members for long enough. Kick off the leaders, reduce their salaries, and reduce our dues. The members ARE the ones that make the union not the leaders that waste their money to fight each other off or to just get dues from new, hijacked, "members". Shame on you, SEIU.

Rita Conolly did work for SEIU as a field rep for one year. Her route was Laguna Honda Hospital. She was sacked by the Executive Director of the union, the day before she was to be made a permanent worker because of member complaints. In the latest contract with SEIU, she worked full time for the union, using two separate half time slots for member organizers. This is because no other RN would do the job as the union is rife with corruption and won't enforce the basic contract elements on staffing. SEIU will negotiate a good contract but will not enforce it and spends far too much time in bed with management.

To RICK SANCHEZ, How dare you say the RN is less caring for their patients than the LVN? Do you really think the LVN is a more caring nurse? I say maybe you have a little jealousy issues brewing. Why don't you get yourself back in school and become an RN? Maybe you are UNABLE to obtain your RN degree due to poor grades or lack of motivation. Anyone can go to the Community College and get their AS degree if their grades are excellent. So before you start talking trash about the RN not being a caring nurse, look in the mirror and ask yourself, WHY am I ONLY an LVN and not an RN. Guess God did not give you the brains to be one.

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