SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan Comes Up Empty on Multi-Million Dollar Ballot Initiative Gamble

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June 29, 2018

The odds on Dave Regan’s ballot-initiative gamble just got a bit longer.

Regan, who has already spent upwards of $6 million of SEIU-UHW’s funds on a California initiative targeting kidney dialysis clinics, was hoping the dialysis industry would agree to a special unionization deal in exchange for Regan dropping his initiative off the ballot.

That didn’t happen.

Yesterday was the last chance for Regan and other initiative sponsors to withdraw their ballot initiatives in advance of California’s statewide elections in November.

What does this mean?

Regan’s initiative is headed to the November ballot… and he’ll now have to spend millions more to battle for Californians’ votes during the next three months.

The price tag could be steep. California is a hugely expensive electoral battleground due to its massive population of 40 million residents and its high-cost media markets.

His opponent, the dialysis industry, has plenty of cash. Their campaign is bankrolled by DaVita and Fresenius, which reported a combined $3.9 billion in profits during 2016, according to SEIU-UHW.

As soon as yesterday’s deadline passed, the dialysis industry put out a press release with this headline:

Coalition of doctors, nurses, patients, caregivers vows to defeat the Dangerous Dialysis Proposition that puts dialysis patients’ lives at risk; Deeply-flawed initiative will be on the November 2018 California ballot.

What’s the takeaway from yesterday’s developments?

Regan played a multi-million-dollar game of chicken with the dialysis industry, spending $6 million to get his dialysis initiative on the ballot and to run threatening TV, radio and print ads across the US. And he lost.

At this point, it’s unclear how he could possibly squeeze a victory from this situation. Even if his initiative wins at the ballot box in November, it will reportedly impose substantial economic costs on the dialysis industry and will not move SEIU-UHW anywhere closer to a unionization deal with DaVita and Fresenius.

These developments underscore both the riskiness and costliness of Regan’s ballot-initiative strategy.

They also spell possible political problems for Regan, decided to double down on ballot initiatives in 2018. This year, he introduced no fewer than ten ballot initiatives, more than any year before. He did this despite the fact that during the past seven years, he spent more than $30 million of SEIU-UHW’s budget on 20+ ballot initiatives, all of which were unsuccessful in producing unionization victories.

If Regan’s ballot-initiative strategy crashes and burns in 2018, will the union’s members and Executive Board hold him accountable?

And will he end his addiction to ballot initiatives and instead invest the union’s tens of millions of dollars into aggressive contract fights, contract enforcement and worker organizing campaigns?

Stay tuned.

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