Kaiser Permanente workers vote to stick with SEIU

A labor union that represents more than 45,000 Kaiser Permanente workers statewide will continue to do so after prevailing in an election Thursday with more than 58 percent of the vote.

Service Employees International-United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW), the largest healthcare union in the western states, beat a smaller challenger, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which had nearly 41 percent.

One percent of the Kaiser workers voted for no union.

The election under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board was billed as the largest private sector union election in the United States since 1941 at the Ford Motor Company.

SEIU-UHW represents about 1,390 technical and clerical workers at Kaiser facilities in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

Its victory means that an existing contract with Kaiser will last through 2015.

The pact, negotiated in 2012, included 12 percent wage increases and employer-paid health care with no cost increases, SEIU-UHW said.

The two unions engaged in a hardball battle over rights to represent the workers at about 250 Kaiser hospitals, clinics and other facilities throughout California.

The workers at stake include most Kaiser employees who are not management, doctors or registered nurses.

SEIU-UHW's total membership exceeds 150,000 workers, dwarfing NUHW with 10,000 members.

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