October 6, 2022
Vote no on Prop. 29, a dangerous union power play that could kill kidney dialysis patients
San Diego Union-TribuneBy San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board
Since California voters embraced direct democracy in 1911, few, if any, ballot measures have abused the system as much as the initiatives targeting dialysis clinic rules put before voters after signature-gathering campaigns by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) in 2018, 2020 and again in 2022.
Dialysis is a medical procedure that keeps people with diseased kidneys alive by using machines that remove waste and other chemicals from the bloodstream and then return the blood to the body. Patients are typically treated three times a week in sessions lasting about four hours. About 80,000 Californians are treated regularly at 650 licensed clinics.
Which brings us to Proposition 29 on the Nov. 8 ballot. A “yes” vote would change existing regulations and mandate that a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner be present during patients’ treatments. SEIU-UHW says the change is needed to counter dangerous conditions in clinics. But it is not required in any other state, and the union offers no evidence California dialysis patients face unusual risks. Meanwhile, the Legislative Analyst’s Office says the requirement would sharply increase clinic costs, which could lead to clinic closures — which would be dangerous for kidney patients in remote areas. The rule would also damage health care overall in California by exacerbating the state’s acute shortage of health care workers. We shouldn’t have to keep voting on dialysis. Why are we? Because of the pique of SEIU-UHW, which has tried and failed to organize dialysis clinic workers at DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, two large companies that own or operate three-quarters of state clinics. The union thinks if it forces the companies to spend around $100 million every two years to defend the status quo, they will stop opposing unionization. That this tactic could kill people is apparently of no concern. The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board recommends a “no” vote on Proposition 29.