On Thursday, Registered Nurses at seven Tenet hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange County petitioned the federal labor board for a secret ballot, federally supervised representation election to join CNA. That process, which provides RNs at those hospitals with a genuine democratic choice and allows other unions to participate, supersedes the Tenet-SEIU pact and will proceed.
"Free elections should be a model for Tenet RNs and all Tenet employees. In the United States employees still get to choose their union and should not have the company choose it for them," said CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro today.
Under the Tenet and SEIU pact, Tenet employees would be handed to SEIU throughout California, except in Orange and San Diego counties where they would be given to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Tenet employees will then receive pay increases and other contract benefits -- but only if they join SEIU or AFSCME.
"It's outrageous that non-union Tenet RNs and other employees, who are far behind the economic standards of other hospital workers, especially RNs represented by CNA in 150 facilities across California, would be compelled to join a union anointed by Tenet to qualify for pay increases," DeMoro said.
"Tenet should immediately provide the pay increases and any other improvements promised in this back room deal to its deserving employees -- without conditions, and without denying their democratic rights to freely select a union of their choice," DeMoro added.
Instead, Tenet employees would be locked into a long term agreement with the main terms decided in advance in closed door meetings with top managements of Tenet and SEIU.
Further there are no indications that Tenet RNs, in particular, will be permitted to continue to exercise their patient advocacy obligations and be able to freely protect their patients. In the Kaiser Permanente deal with SEIU and AFSCME, which SEIU cites as a model in its press release, those unions agreed to silence on hospital closures or any business decisions that compromise patient care, and SEIU co-wrote harmful programs such as bonuses for telephone advice clerks who limit patient referrals to physicians.
Ralph Nader today joined CNA in questioning the impact of the agreement on patients.
"Tenet is notorious for its commitment to profits regardless of the consequences for the public's well being," said Nader. "As has already occurred with other arrangements, SEIU's back room deal degrades the independent professional responsibility of nurses for patient care protection."
CNA said today that it will file charges with the National Labor Relations Board and is considering other legal actions against the pact. Several provisions of the deal are illegal including:
-- Forcing employees to join SEIU/AFSCME as a condition for receiving pay and benefit increases.
-- Bribing employees with the promise of increased pay solely based on joining SEIU/AFSCME.
-- Selecting for employees what union they have to join, and granting exclusive favors to that union.
For Tenet, said DeMoro, "this appears to be a short term public relations strategy designed to drive up their stock prices with the supposed promise of 'labor peace'. Perhaps they are guided by illusions of hefty profit taking for top executives who have seen their stock portfolios plummet in recent months due to numerous federal and state investigations into Tenet's billing practices and patient care conditions."
"But it will be a failed strategy," DeMoro continued. "If Tenet is doing this for investor security, investors should feel anything but secure."
"By signing this agreement with SEIU, Tenet is presumably hoping to buy SEIU's influence with state and national lawmakers, just as SEIU routinely lobbies for Kaiser Permanente. They hope to silence the voice of those legislators and investigators at the very moment that billions of dollars in claims actions are pending."
"We are confident," said DeMoro, "that the legislators will join with us in saying that patients, the public interest, and Tenet RNs and other employees are not for sale."
CNA is the largest, independent RN organization in the U.S. representing 50,000 RNs, including more than 1,500 Tenet RNs at five hospitals.
In its petitions Thursday, CNA is seeking to represent another 1,500 RNs at Brotman Medical Center, Centinela Hospital Medical Center, Daniel Freeman-Marina Hospital, Los Alamitos Medical Center, Mission Hospital and Community Hospital of Huntington Park, and Suburban Medical Center.More information is available on the CNA website at www.calnurse.org.