Bargaining Update CNA and CHEU Negotiations


Palomar Health met with the California Nurses Association (CNA) on September 28 and the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU) on September 29 for further contract negotiations.  Key topics of discussion included the following:

1. Seniority-based schedulingThe unions are continuing to insist on seniority-based scheduling. We believe it would be unfair for less senior employees to get stuck with all the undesirable schedules. As a compromise, we offered the following counterproposal:  “Where all things are equal, seniority shall be taken into account for scheduling preferences. However, out of fairness to less senior employees, scheduling preferences shall not always be decided based on seniority (i.e., employees will rotate.)The unions refused to agree to our fair compromise.  Instead, they said it would be good for retention if you know you’ll get better schedules after working here for many years.  We think you won’t want to stick around for long if you’re not getting decent schedules now. 

2. Health & Safety:   CNA and CHEU presented counterproposals for this lengthy article.  We are reviewing the unions’ requested language changes. 

3. Employee Privacy:  CNA and CHEU gave us new proposals for Article 2 – Association Security.  The unions are requesting that we forward private employee data to them every 30 days, including employee names, home addresses, home and mobile telephone numbers, work and home email addresses, gender, birth date, social security numbers and other personal information. The unions’ negotiator claimed they are requesting this information “consistent with what is now the law.”  However, our fact-checkers found that’s not what the law actually says.  We even pointed out statutes that prohibit Palomar Health from disclosing certain information CNA and CHEU requested. (Government Code section 6254.3(a)(3).) “Upon written request of any employee, a public agency shall not disclose the employee’s home address, home telephone number, personal cellular telephone number, personal email address, or birth date” to an employee organization. (Government Code section 6254.3(c).) Employees may direct written requests to the Human Resources department.

4. Additional Bargaining Dates:  Palomar Health and CNA agreed to meet for further negotiations on October 5.  Palomar Health and CHEU agreed to meet again on October 13.

5. The $65 Million Purchase:  CNA and CHEU asked us to update the address in the contract where Palomar Health remits your monthly dues and fees. The unions’ negotiator informed us that they have moved into a new building.  CNA purchased, for about $65 million, what the San Francisco Business Times described as “the most coveted Oakland office building on the market.” The Union purchased Oakland’s Lake Merritt Tower “to occupy its vacant 20,000 square feet and reap the investment benefits of owning in Oakland’s relatively small Class A office market.” Before the Lake Merritt Tower purchase, CNA already owned a four-story brick building in Oakland, which housed most of the Union’s roughly 250 employees, but the property was less than “Class A.”  Besides spending employees’ dues and fees to invest in prime real estate, the Union’s financial statements show the following facts for the time period 7/1/16 through 6/30/17:
  • CNA collected over $121 million, but spent less than $29 million on “Representational Activities.” Stated differently, the Union spent less than 24% of the money it collected on activities actually representing its own members.  In comparison, CNA spent over $2.6 million on “Political Activities and Lobbying”, another $234,000 on “Contributions, Gifts and Grants,” and over $22 million+ on “General Overhead” and “Union Administration” for union salaries.  Notably, one area where CNA did not make any cash disbursements was “Strike Benefits”:  $0.
  • Even though CNA did not spend the majority of its receipts on “Representational Activities,” CNA did pay its Union Officers $724,944.  Just between four Co-Presidents, the Union paid over $347,000 in salary and disbursements.  However, if you look at how their time was spent, the Co-Presidents focused half or more of their time on “Political Activities and Lobbying” and “Administration,” rather than “Representational Activities.”  And, in addition to the Union Officers, CNA had numerous employees on the Union’s payroll – several of whom made in the six figures.  Labor reps Erik Olson-Fernández and Corinne Wilson made $148,563 and $86,638, respectively.  
  • In total, CNA paid its officers and employees $28,190,270.  CNA spent only $8,665 more than that on “Representational Activities” actually representing the individuals who pay dues and fees to the Union.
  • CHEU dues are forwarded directly to the “California Nurses Association.”  CHEU confirmed that this is correct.  CHEU’s financial disclosure reports state:  “Membership dues paid by CHEU members are received directly by California Nurses Association (CNA)”; “CHEU does not hold assets itself, nor does it employ paid staff members.”

The following is an update regarding strike-related communications and your rights in the event of a strike.

Strike-Related Communications
Although negotiations are continuing, the parties remain far apart in their positions.  We understand that employees are receiving unsolicited text messages on their personal cell phones about a potential strike. If you are asked to sign a ballot or petition, it is VERY important that you read, understand and agree with the document. By signing a document, you may be committing to a strike or other action that impacts you. 

If the unions conduct a Strike Authorization Vote, you should vote based on what you think is best for you, your family and our patients, but it is important to vote.  By not voting, you are putting decisions that affect you in other people’s hands.  You cannot be retaliated against by the union, coworkers, or management for voting.

Your Rights in the Event of a Strike
We have provided accurate, factual information in our bargaining updates and will continue to keep you informed.  In the event of a strike, please be aware of the following:
  • The law protects the right of all employees to cross a picket line. Employees are free to make up their own minds about crossing a picket line and continuing to work. Any employee, including anyone who is a union member, has a right to refuse to participate in a work stoppage. This is not “management’s opinion”; it is the law:
    • Employees “have the right to refuse to join or participate” in union activities. (California Government Code section 3502.)  
    • Public agencies and employee organizations “shall not interfere with, intimidate, restrain, coerce or discriminate against” employees who participate or decline to participate in activities of the union. (California Government Code section 3506.)  
    • It is an unfair practice for an employee organization to interfere with or discriminate against employees who refuse to join or participate in the union’s activities. (Title 8, California Code of Regulations section 32604.) 
  • No employee is ever under any obligation to strike.  Unions are legally prohibited from threatening or coercing members in other ways to keep them from coming to work. However, some unions have the right to levy fines against members, but not non-members (agency fair share payers), who choose to work during a strike.  Palomar Health will not deduct union fines, if any, from employees' paychecks.
  • You are free to work on the day of a strikeEmployees who come to work will receive their normal compensation and benefits.  Employees who do not come to work on the day of a strike will not be paid for time not worked.  The only exceptions to this are absences that are approved in advance by the employee's supervisor (e.g., scheduled vacation) or medical absence with proper certification.
  • Strike followed by potential lockout. CNA and CHEU have stated in their bargaining updates that a strike would last one day.  On the day of a strike, employees would be free to report to work. However, a one-day strike followed by a four-day lockout is a potential course of action. It is lawful for public employers to prepare for a lockout. (Sweetwater Union High School District (2014) PERB Decision No. IR-58.) This decision would only be made after careful consideration. The cost of a strike team would exceed $10 million. Unfortunately, we may not be able to pay for two workforces during the same time period.  We sincerely hope a fair deal can be reached at the bargaining table and that a potential strike/lockout can be avoided.
  • Any strike at this point would be unlawful. The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the state agency responsible for overseeing collective bargaining for public healthcare districts like Palomar Health, has held that a strike during negotiations or before exhaustion of impasse resolution proceedings may constitute an “illegal pressure tactic” and an unfair labor practice.  (Fresno Unified School District (1982) PERB Decision No. 208.)  In addition, we believe a strike targeting patient care employees would pose a substantial and imminent threat to public health and safety, and improperly withhold health care from members of the public. (County Sanitation Dist. No. 2 v. Los Angeles County Employees’ Association (1985) 38 Cal.3d 564.)  Palomar Health would seek injunctive relief if strike notice is given.
Unfortunately, strikes do not bring two sides closer together.  We firmly believe the best way for the parties to resolve their differences is through negotiation and compromise at the bargaining table.  

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