You Have Questions…UNAC/UHCP Has Answers

September 2012

Below are questions from physical and occupational therapists, submitted to UNAC/UHCP at unacuhcp.org/westlasurvey, answered by Vanessa Caballero. If you need an answer immediately, or do not want your question posted online, you can reach Vanessa at vanessa.caballero@unacuhcp.org or 619-248-3319. These questions will be further explored in upcoming meetings scheduled to take place in all service areas. We will do our best to answer your questions as quickly as possible.

What does UNAC/UHCP stand for?
What is Unac and how does it work?
What are the costs and benefits of joining the Union?
What are the dues?
What is the election process?
What benefits can we gain by unionizing?

Q: What does UNAC/UHCP stand for?
A: United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals

Q: What is Unac and how does it work?
A: UNAC/UHCP is democracy in action. Union members have a voice in setting the policies for their Union. UNAC operates under an affiliate model meaning each group of Health Care Professionals organized have their own independent affiliate. Therefore the Therapists at Kaiser will have their own affiliate as part of UNAC/UHCP. Each affiliate has its own constitution, negotiate their own contract, and elect their own officers and stewards to manage the daily needs of the affiliate. Affiliates do this in conjunction and with the support of UNAC/UHCP.

Q: What are the costs and benefits of joining the Union?
A: The most important benefit to having a Union is that therapists will have a strong and sustained voice in their workplace. Management will no longer have complete freedom to implement whatever changes they so desire. With a union, they must sit down with the therapists who are now equals in the decision-making process. What one does with that voice is up to the therapists. Whether they focus their energies on better wages, benefits, working conditions, or some combination of the three will be a choice made by and only by the therapists themselves.

This leads to the potential "con" of unionization. If employees are not interested in using their voice, if therapists would rather wait and have someone else make the decisions about their wages, benefits and working conditions, then the union will not be an effective vehicle for change.

There are other issues that some people bring up in regards to unionization. Some are afraid of strikes. The Affiliate structure of UNAC/UHCP means that the only people who would decide whether or not the therapists were ever to go out on strike would be the therapists themselves. It wouldn't matter if every nurse in Kaiser were striking, you and your coworkers will have the independence to make your own decisions. Others worry that "bad employees" are protected by the union. That is also not actually true. Every therapist under the contract will now be protected by "Just Cause" language meaning you can only be fired for a just reason. That is different than now where therapists are employed "at will" meaning they can be fired at any time for any reason. Union members are fired when they have done something wrong that is proven by management. But all members have the benefit of a grievance procedure to make sure they are treated fairly and have an opportunity to defend themselves.

Q: What are the dues?
A: Dues at UNAC/UHCP are approximately two hours a month. The actual dues are based on a formula (Weighted Average Hourly Rate x 173.33 x 1.25%). We do this so that dues will be fair. For example, on average our nurses make more money than the therapists. We will not charge the therapists the same as other members of our union who make more money

Dues are only paid after a contract has been ratified by the membership that positively affects their wages, benefits and working conditions. Therefore before you start paying dues you will see exactly what you are getting in the contract and can make a determination from there whether you wish to ratify or reject.

Q: What is the election process?
A: At Kaiser there is a simple procedure for forming your union. If 50% plus one of the therapists region wide sign cards saying they want to be part of UNAC/UHCP, then you have won the right to sit down with management and begin negotiating your first contract. If within a five month time period, 50% plus one do NOT sign cards, then the campaign is over.

Q: What benefits can we gain by unionizing?
A: Again, once you have formed your Union, your bargaining priorities are up to you and your coworkers. What our other members have achieved is this:
1. Secured their pension plans from being frozen
2. Improved their pensions and retirement benefits
3. Created wage grids that acknowledge years of service including step increases at 10, 12, 15, 20, and 25 years of service.
4. Maintained a health plan with a $5 co-pay
5. Improved workload issues through contractually guaranteed workload committees and unit-based team consensus building with management.
6. Increased educational opportunities and reimbursements to continually improve skills and marketability
7. Successfully worked in Sacramento on healthcare legislation that impacts work at the bedside.

These questions will be further explored in upcoming meetings scheduled to take place in all service areas.