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El Camino Hospital Workers Vote to Keep Union

Despite a delay in the count of election ballots and a split in the interests of the membership, SEIU-UHW will continue to represent hospital workers.

Three months after some workers filed to decertify their union, a clear majority of the membership has decided to retain the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare West (SEIU-UHW) to represent their labor interests.

The results of the Thursday, Jan. 5 vote–released on Tuesday, Jan. 10–took five days to get after a challenge by hospital administrators to balloting procedures, the San Jose Mercury news reported. Out of 956 votes cast from a total of 1235 members, 599 decided to remain with SEIU-UHW for a total of 63 percent. However, 357, or 37 percent, considered decertification.

"I don't know of many elections that are won by greater margins than this," said Kary Lynch, a licensed psychiatric tech who has worked at the hospital for more than 30 years. "And the election process worked in our favor because some of the inactive members stepped into leadership roles and we want to keep them."

The decertification–filed on Oct. 11, 2011 a day after hospital officials declared that negotiations between the two parties had reached an impasse–would have removed the SEIU-UHW as the worker's union. According to Lynch, after the vote results on Tuesday, the active members approached some who had voted "No" and "with few exceptions," most planned to attend meetings to be held Wednesday and Thursday at campus to discuss the result, the union's plans moving forward and to solicit their input.

The hospital released a statement that acknowledged the result of the vote, but at the same time made clear that regardless of the outcome, their positions stands.

"It is clear that people cared about this choice, honoring and exercising their right to vote," the statement read.

Now that the decertification election has come and gone, Lynch added that the membership will turn its attention back to charges that the SEIU-UHW filed with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) about what they felt was an unfair declaration of an impasse by the hospital.

In response, on Dec. 19, PERB issued a complaint that initially found that El Camino Hospital had illegally withheld information from SEIU-UHW members during bargaining; prematurely declared impasse in the bargaining without having bargained in good faith; and .

"Now we can focus all of our energy on holding management accountable for forcing a contract on workers when they didn’t negotiate with us in good faith in the first place," said Anna Williams, a Certified Nurse’s Assistant in the Critical Care Unit at El Camino’s Mountain View Campus.

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