On June 15, 2010, SEIU Healthcare Florida members will have the chance to vote in a secret ballot election to determine whether to merge with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in what the unions are calling a “Partnership for Power.”
With more than 350,000 members, 1199SEIU is already the largest healthcare workers’ local in the country.
According to the proposed merger agreement, if ratified, the merger is slated to be effective July 1, 2010. Some of the key provisions include:
1. The current SEIU Healthcare Florida President, Monica Russo, for the most part, will remain in charge of the Florida Region. She will become the new Florida Region Executive Vice President for 1199SEIU and will report directly to the President of 1199SEIU in New York City, George Gresham. Russo will also keep her post as an SEIU International Vice President.
2. 1199SEIU promised to pump resources into Florida to help organize healthcare workers and negotiate first contracts for them. This means 1199SEIU will send money and talent to conduct corporate organizing and contract campaigns.
3. 1199SEIU’s Director of Organizing and Russo will jointly designate targets, campaign strategy and resource allocation.
4. While 1199SEIU will pump money into Florida, it also will be increasing dues for its members employed in acute care hospitals.
5. 1199SEIU promises to mobilize its retirees living in Florida to help the local in organizing, representation and political campaigns.
6. The agreement specifically acknowledges the continuing collaboration pact between SEIU and the National Nurse Organizing Committee (the outgrowth of the California Nurses Association and currently part of National Nurses United, the RN “super union”).
7. 1199SEIU agreed to fund “significant struggles with employers” within Florida to achieve certain strategic objectives in collective bargaining negotiations, including:
a. union training fund commitments;
b. improvements in health and welfare; and
c. improvements in pension benefits.
8. 1199SEIU is committed to give the Florida Region access to its communications, legal research and other support operations. Upon ratification of the agreement, the Florida Region also will have access to the International’s Strike Fund.
While the full effect of this merger will not be known for some time, the unions are selling it as a positive step in consolidating SEIU’s healthcare presence from Maine to Miami. The union’s literature notes that after the Massachusetts local merged with 1199SEIU, its membership tripled. One thing is clear, healthcare providers in Florida should be prepared for a significant uptick in union organizing and increased demands at the bargaining table. Non-union hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare providers should undertake a corporate-campaign and union-organizing vulnerability assessment to identify issues that may be exploited by union organizers in a campaign. Employers also should provide management education on employer rights and responsibilities and employee education on pro-employee philosophy, wages, benefits, recognition and problem solving policies.