SEIU199 is on strike against Swedish Hospital

Can someone tell SEIU they are in violation of the law!

I am not talking about the strike, but about this form, I received yesterday by email!

Frankly, I was surprised that SEIU1199 would do this.  I had been contacted before the strike about joining the picket line. I did not do that because I, frankly, am worried about SEIU in general.

SEIU is, in my opinion, a problematic union. The SEIU925 part of SEIU has efforts to organize faculty at major universities.  All these have because SEIU operated like a traditional industrial union.  Ther model is based on assembly or workers.

The problem with the assembly line model is the mix of workers covered by a union.  Government, utilities, facilities like hospitals and universities as well as more modern corporations have very different management problems than GM or Ford from past eras. Engineers, machinists and janitors at Boeing belong, I believe, to different unions.  Each group of workers in each union, while large has similar issues.  That is not always true in the public sector or at a modern corporation.

I have seen how badly SEIU925 can behave when they tried to organize the University of Washington.  SEIU and a fairly small cadre of faculty activists from the tenured faculty wanted to organize the so-called contingent faculty.  That is a just cause.  Contingent faculty are the folks who do entry-level and evening class teaching.  These faculty. usually with advanced degrees, are often paid well below the minimum wage.  The contingency faculty may be paid hourly or based on short term contracts.  Contingent faculty may even be paid by piecework .. like women in sweatshops in Bangladesh.   At the other extreme tenured faculty salaries at the UW range up to 2 million dollars or even higher if you include professional income from consulting or patient care. That mix simply does not fit a traditional union model.

The wage diversity in a hospital is not as bad as it is in university.  Health care, even without the administrators or physicians, includes highly trained technicians who can earn as much as $200,000 and low wage folks who may go from work to sleep in a tent or group home. Yesterday, while waiting for care at the UW Emergency Room, I overheard conversations by some of the people caring for me about how hard it was to get to work because of the housing problem in Seattle.  One actually was living in a tent!

So now we have a strike and, in the normal practice of public unions, SEIU insists the strike is not about the workers but about the patients.  Perhaps that is true but in the chaos and mismanagement of American medicine, who would know?   Do we really have too few staff when the cost of procedures [n Seattle can be three to five times what the same procedure costs ina Vancouver hospital?  Where does the money go if not to staff?

To make it worse SEIU has violated the HIPAA privacy laws by requesting my personal information!  Did they ask any of their nurses before doing this?  Under the law, they should have referred to the law and given the patient the right to refuse any identifying information.

I did call SEIU1199NW and expect they will fix the error.  I gather the form had reviewed by a union attorney so I suggested that ask a nurse to redo the form since he or she will better understand the privacy issues all medical staff deal with.

More importantly, before I join their picket line I want to know more about the workers.

What are their pay grades?  What about working conditions for worker advancement?

The SEIU told me that over 50% of their members at Swedish can not afford rent in a single bedroom apartment in Seattle!  THAT IS SHOCKING!

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  1. Mark Adams #

    There could be a HIPAA violation here, but Iam not sure. There are exceptions in the law, also the Union is asking you the patient for information, and if you choose to share your information that is not a HIPAA violation.

    HIPAA is a necessary law, but it is one big bugbear. Perhaps overly complicated, and everyone has good reason to play it safe and keep all information close to the vest.

    The Union is of course interested in getting their members a good outcome, especially if they are on strike. Whether it is factory workers, teachers, farm labor, ect. the tactics Unions have are more similar though a teaching hospital on a major university campus is an unusual animal with a wider cross section of people rather than the typical management worker dichotomy.