Thursday, March 25, 2010

New York isn't the only place with CBA problems after all

San Francisco has the Hunter's Point CBA, which was called a "big victory" when it was finalized in 2008.

But now there's another CBA campaign on in the city by the bay, and it doesn't look so promising. The controversy concerns a 550-bed megahospital being proposed by Sutter Health, which will allow Sutter to reduce its acute care services at the existing St. Luke's hospital. St. Luke's is located in the Mission, which has a large Latino population, and two coalitions have formed to address issues relating to health justice and equity. As Randy Shaw explains in a BeyondChron article, "the California Nurses Association and virtually every health care advocacy group is fighting save St. Luke's Hospital and force Sutter to sign an enforceable agreement protecting the community".

Sounds like a strong campaign. Except that the healthcare workers' union, SEIU-UHW, undercut the coalition by signing its own agreement with Sutter. In the Side Letter, the union agreed to publicly and privately support the project, and it authorized Sutter to assign union employees to outreach work building support for the project.

According to Shaw, the community's reaction to SEIU-UHW's side deal has been mostly negative. The vice president of the other healthcare workers' union, NUHW, explained that "there is no way NUHW would have made such a deal with Sutter. We always felt it important to work with the community regarding this project.” SEIU-UHW, according to Shaw, has become disengaged from other healthcare advocacy groups in the city and from elected officials. Although the San Francisco Building Trades are siding with SEIU-UHW, "the Building Trades supports virtually every construction project proposed in San Francisco, and – unlike SEIU-UHW – does not claim protecting patient care and health equity as part of its mission."

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