There is a three-day strike starting today at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California. 1800 security guards are striking for three days in an “unfair labor practice” action. This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.
Here is some background:
Rather than directly employ security guards Kaiser contracts with a company called Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. Inter-Con hires and manages the security guards for Kaiser, paying them very little and giving them few benefits – not even sick leave. So these security guards, even though they work at Kaiser, (some for many years), are paid far less than other security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states, and receive few benefits. Kaiser is one of the more responsible, unionized companies for its workers, which makes this situation even worse for these workers.
These security guards have been trying to form a union for three years and Inter-Con is trying to stop them. It is legal to form a union but Inter-Con has violated civil rights by “threatening, intimidating, and spying on workers who were trying to form a union for better conditions” and that is illegal.
“…They’re pulling us aside to ask us who is going to picket or strike, who’s a union supporter,” said Angelito Morales, an Inter-Con officer at Kaiser Union City Medical Center, near the Hayward facility.
That’s illegal. Many other occurrences of i9llegal anti-union practices led the security guards to file a complaint with the (Bush) National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that Inter-Con managers have:
* Ordered employees to inform management when individuals at the job site were engaging in union activities.
* Interrogated employees, asking them to disclose the names of individuals who intend to engage in union activities.
* Spied on employees, photographing and/or otherwise recording employees as they participated in union activities such as picketing.
* Interrogated at least one worker about planned strike activities, asking whether or not the worker was planning on participating in the strike.
* Promised workers improved benefits (healthcare), to deter them from engaging in further union activities.
All of these are against the rules, but the NLRB has not acted.
Please visit Stand For Security, SEIU’s website covering this strike and the security guards’ fight to form a union.
Don’t get caught up in arguments about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for employees to go on strike for money or benefits. That is not what this strike is about. This strike is about asking that laws be enforced, so the security guards can go about the legal business of forming a union to represent their interests.
These are the only workers at Kaiser — subcontracted or not — who do not have a union. Janitors and others are subcontracted but have unions. And being in a union makes a huge difference. For example, these are the only Kaiser workers without paid family health care. Inter-Con employees must be full time to get any health coverage, while other Kaiser workers get it for working part time. (And of course Inter-Con has lots of ways to make sure employees don’t get classified as full-time, like having an “on-call” status that doesn’t count.)
They don’t even have paid sick leave. These security guards have to restrain patients, work in the psychiatric ward, etc., and some have been attacked, but they do not even get sick pay! And, of course, there is a dramatic pay difference between these Inter-Con contractors and the other Kaiser employees and contractors.
Rather than turn this into a comprehensive, 12-page essay I’m goign to write more over the next several days, as this strike unfolds. For now, please visit Stand For Security, SEIU’s website about this situation.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.
Update – Construction workers building a wing at the