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Victory at last!

On November 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!

Many 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.

What 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



Gritty black and white images seem a suitable medium to display the final moments of a union organizing campaign. Like making sausages and politics, union organizing is not for the squeamish. Management often strikes back at those employees responding to the timeless call of a better life through organizing a union.
Congratulations to Mercy employees, SEIU local 250, and SEIU for their success, and for making all our world a little better in the process.
This is a personal website that in documenting some of Sacramento's progressive activity is also documenting moments in the lives of friends and family, so their names and faces frequently appear.-- dick wood



  SEIU organizer Rebecca, and Viola, Mercy General employee, leafletting at 6 AM shift change at Mercy General Hospital during the last days of the campaign. foto- ellen dillinger


  Rebecca and 'our plan' at Mercy General's back door. Fortune cookies were distributed to Mercy employees. foto-ellen dillinger


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