14, 2001, healthcare workers at CHW hospitals in Sacramento won
resoundingly in the Service bargaining unit and are in arbitration
to decide results for the Technical unit. The following photographs
document some moments in our campaign, but cannot record the transformation
many of us experienced in the process, so I will use my editorial
moment to express that . I know, I know, one picture equals 1000
words, and a photographer runs this Page, but I am going to add
my 2 cents worth of words anyway!
times throughout this campaign, we were asked by Local 250 to distill
a statement about our reasons for wanting a union in our workplace.
In the beginning, I pointed to the travails of my co-workers as
they struggled to do too much work with too little staffing. Later
I added outrage when I learned of the various inequities between
workers at Mercy and other area hospitals. These are valid reasons
for wanting a union and remain so, but in the last weeks of the
campaign, another thing happened. An agreement between SEIU and
CHW (Catholic Healthcare West) that management would not engage
in anti-union campaigning was broken by CHW when department managers
went floor-to-floor with graphs and charts "demonstrating"
that a union could not change anything at CHW hospitals. Page 1
of their agenda addressed the union directly, and so broke the agreement.
Until this point, I viewed the union campaign as a choice between
two ways of looking at an economic relationship between employee
and employer. I respected my employers' right to prefer a non-union
relationship as long as they did not hinder my right to be in a
union if that is what my coworkers and I chose to do. But, when
I learned that managers were engaging in an openly anti-union campaign,
I knew the gloves were off.
did we do? A coworker and I followed the managers as they made their
rounds and questioned their statements and their right to be anti-union
campaigning. Other coworkers did the same around the clock. In many
departments, employees demanded that the managers and their anti-union
caravan leave and in others they asked embarrassing questions. We
realized at this juncture that CHW would circumvent even legal agreements
in order to prevail.
I am remembering how I and other coworkers expressed surprise when
we learned that "our" manager or supervisor had participated
in the anti-union campaign. I think we all understood that "administration
insisted" on this as part of managment's job, but we were still
shocked that persons we had friendly relationships with were attacking
us in this way.
There are moments in life when you realize where you are on the
food chain and who your real allies are. For me, during this last
two weeks of the campaign when management broke their agreement
and campaigned against us, that was the moment. I understood that
my committment to my coworkers and to "doing the right thing"
superceded anything that might result.-- Ellen Dillinger, Mercy
General Hospital employee for 27 years