Tuesday, February 10, 2004

New union organizes
hospital workers

The Convalescent Center of Honolulu's
staff has voted in the Hawaii Hospital
Healthcare Worker's Union

A majority of workers employed at the Convalescent Center of Honolulu have voted to organize under a new labor union, the Hawaii Hospital Healthcare Worker's Union. The workers had been represented for more than 20 years by the United Public Workers.

Of the 119 workers eligible to vote, 62 voted to certify the new union, while three voted for UPW. Another 35 voted for no union, said Jim Kellog, who is president of the healthcare workers' union and also a licensed practical nurse with Kaiser Permanente.

The Convalescent Center of Honolulu is a hospital that specializes in the long-term care of patients with chronic medical problems that require the support of a ventilator to keep them alive. The union will represent licensed practical nurses, nurse aides, dietary employees and maintenance staff employed there.

Kellog said he believes his union was successful in its bid for representation of the center's employees for a number of reasons.

"Their dues were very high and (the employees) felt that the UPW didn't have their best interests in mind when they negotiated with the hospitals. UPW also concentrated on the public workers," he said.

The new union hopes to build its membership from all sectors of the health care industry and is now concentrating on attracting approximately 2,000 Kaiser Permanente employees represented by the Local 5 Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union.

In order to be certified as the union representing the group, the union needs 600 Local 5-member signatures, or about 30 percent of the total membership to be certified by the National Labor Relations Board, which can then choose to hold an election. Kellog believes his group is about a month away from that happening, depending on whether Local 5 files an objection with the NLRB, which could lead to hearings and a delay in holding any election.

Local 5's contract with Kaiser comes up for renegotiation next summer. The union's leader, Eric Gill, said he had no comment on the potential bid to oust Local 5.

Kellog said Hawaii's hospital workers should have their own union rather than be represented by many.

"Right now it's fragmented," he said.

Unions representing health-care workers at Hawaii's hospitals include the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, the Teamsters Local 966, the Collective Bargaining Organization affiliated with the Hawaii Nurses Association, the United Public Workers and the Laborers Union Local 368.


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