SEIU targeting hospitals with ballot measure again

by Chris Reed | November 24, 2015 5:01 am

SEIU-California-340x250The state branch of the Service Employees International Union is launching another bid to use direct democracy to win leverage in its negotiations with California’s hospitals to improve health care access for poor people and to make union organizing easier. It’s taken steps toward qualifying a ballot measure that would govern hospital executives’ pay and regulate other hospital issues. This is from the Sacramento Business Journal:

The proposed initiative, submitted to the state on Friday, would limit compensation packages for executives, administrators and managers at nonprofit hospitals, hospital groups and affiliated medical entities to no more than $450,000 per year. That’s what the U.S. president gets.


This looks like a measure SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West dropped 18 months ago when it signed a partnership agreement with the California Hospital Association to settle differences and work on a joint campaign to fix Medi-Cal.


That deal also halted SEIU initiatives to regulate hospital prices and the level of charity care nonprofit hospitals provide. In exchange, the union appeared to get better access to hospitals for organizing purposes. Both partners agreed to a code of conduct about labor management relations.


Union spokesman Steve Trossman said the partnership agreement and labor management agreement remain in place. He said the union had not decided whether to also revive ballot measures on charity care and pricing.

Tactic ‘does nothing’ to increase hospital access

The filing of the initiative language with the Secretary of State’s Office isn’t necessarily a sign this is a serious proposal, but it’s certainly a serious message going into 2016 that the SEIU will continue to fight its battles through all available avenues. It triggered a sharp reaction from California Hospital Association CEO C. Duane Dauner and CTA Vice President for External Affairs Jan Emerson-Shea:

[The] decision by SEIU-UHW (UHW) to file a harmful ballot measure that will negatively impact the operations of hospitals throughout California is an abuse of the state’s initiative process and violates a May 5, 2014 agreement negotiated between the California Hospital Association (CHA) and UHW. Artificially imposing a cap on compensation will result in a loss of qualified executives and undermine the ability of hospitals to meet the challenges ahead.


Since signing the May 5, 2014 agreement, CHA has worked with UHW to address a myriad of issues facing California’s health care delivery system, most specifically the need to improve access to care for low-income children, seniors and the disabled. These efforts have raised the awareness among state lawmakers, stakeholders and the public about the importance of creating a stable source of funding for the Medi-Cal program, which provides coverage to more than 12 million Californians. While progress is being made, much work remains to be done.


This is the third time UHW has attempted to use the initiative process to further its organizing agenda. As was the case in 2011-12 and 2013-14, the measure filed today does nothing to fix Medi-Cal or increase access to hospital services.

State SEIU branch also pushing another ballot measure

The SEIU’s California branch has 700,000[1] members in California and has worked to raise its profile in recent years. Earlier this month, it announced plans to sponsor another 2016 ballot measure that also may be more of a leverage play to goad business interests to cooperate with the Legislature on raising the minimum wage than a serious effort. This is from the East Bay Express[2]:

A coalition of low-wage workers and the Service Employees International Union of California filed a ballot proposition yesterday with the California Attorney General that would raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 by 2020, and adjust it upward each year thereafter at the rate of inflation. It would also mandate that employers provide workers with a minimum of six paid sick days per year.


Backers of the initiative said they will begin gathering signatures to put it on the ballot starting in January 2016. If they succeed in gathering the 365,880 necessary signatures, voters could decide on the proposal in the November 2016 presidential election.

This ballot measure is more generous than a rival ballot proposal to raise the minimum wage sponsored by one of the SEIU’s largest member unions, the United Healthcare Workers West. The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this month[3] that the state SEIU may end up working with the hospital union on one measure to avoid confusing voters and wasting union dollars by launching two separate efforts.

  1. 700,000:
  2. East Bay Express:
  3. earlier this month:

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