"A business is a kingdom-- a union is a democracy!" -- Thom Hartmann, Air America.

The best unions operate on democratic principles, which means members participating in bargaining contracts and serving on decision-making boards and committees. It might be quicker to have a king do all this, but our country and our union, UHW-w, have elected to operate as democracies, and so we, as members have the right and responsibility of full participation.

One of the most educational actions in which members take part is bargaining the contract between the Employer and the Union. As a member of the Bargaining Committee, you soon learn that no benefit is won without a fight.

Our 2004 contract expired April 30, 2008, was extended until July, and is now long overdue. In protest, UHW-w members statewide held an informational picket of CHW hospitals on August 6, 2008. As of August 26, we are still without a contract and a strike is contemplated.

  August 6, 2008: UHW-w informational picket at Mercy General in Sacramento. Union members picketed from 11-1:30, with workers coming out on breaks and lunch. The weather was hot, but spirits were high.

  "What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!" Keith Lexion leading chant.


Unions have an accelerating list of actions by which to demonstrate displeasure with the pace of contract negotiations. As we are currently without a contract and have exhausted other options, the next step would be a strike. This would require a "Yes" vote by union members, after which a 10 day notice of intent to strike would be delivered to CHW.

  "Working Together for Quality Care" is what it's about--- which only happens when employees get the wages and working conditions they need to do their jobs well.

  August 21/22, 2008: Bargaining the 2008 contract at the Hilton in Sacramento. UHW-w bargainer, Brian, in discussion with the bargaining team about CHW's most recent proposals. Two union members from each UHW-w represented CHW hospital around the state comprise the bargaining team. The newly organized Mercy Foundation members are here, bargaining their first contract.

  UHW bargainer, Brian, explaining an issue, with a copy of our expired contract under his arm.


Some light moments during bargaining. This is the third UHW/CHW contract for Chief Shop Stewards Sharon Martinez and Sherri Macias (from left). Looking at the bargaining committee sitting around the table, one is reminded of the many years of hard work (most of it volunteer) put in by co-workers and fellow union members around the state to make our union what it is. This is truly democracy in action.

NOTE: This week, Tyrone Freeman, the leader of an SEIU local (6434) in Southern California representing long-term health care workers stepped down following charges by the L.A. Times of corruption and financial mismanagement. SEIU President Andy Stern responded to the scandal involving his protege by leveling charges at UHW-w and threatening to put our local in trusteeship for unrelated and bogus issues. Such an act would result in the replacement of current elected UHW-w leaders with SEIU appointees. It would also end the practice of having union member bargaining teams and member ratification of contracts. Our union would be an SEIU kingdom. This is NOT what we bargained for when we organized to become part of UHW-w, and should be opposed at every level.

PAGE 1 OF 1.1....................................................NEXT