Healthcare workers’ union counts dialysis victory in dollars spent against it

Win or lose, Dave Regan, the healthcare worker union leader who is pushing an initiative to regulate dialysis clinic profits, is getting some satisfaction at the huge sums being spent by the dialysis industry, $105 million and counting.

“In a weird kind of way, we must be doing something right,” Regan said, referring to the spending.

Proposition 8 would limit California’s 555 dialysis clinics to 15 percent profit, and provide incentives for the operators to increase staffing.

Regan’s Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West would dearly love to organize the 9,000 workers at the main private clinics, DaVita Kidney Care and Fresenius Medical Care.

“It’s unconscionable that UHW is willing to continuously put patient lives at risk to pursue its union organizing agenda,” said Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the industry opposed to the initiative.

Regan has used initiatives and threats of initiatives in the past in negotiations on behalf of his 100,000-member union. That Proposition 8 opponents are spending $105 million-plus to defeat the initiative is sure to send a message to Regan’s future foes that ballot measures come at a steep cost.

Not that he’s conceding his Proposition 8 will fail, but Regan said in an interview that he plans to press for new legislation in 2019 aimed at the dialysis industry, may return to the ballot in 2020 with a new initiative, and hopes to work with labor leaders in other states who might want to copy what he is doing.

“Honestly we did not just do this as a one-off. We are committed to patients and the workers over the long-term,” Regan said.

So far, the Colorado-based DaVita has led the opposition by spending $67 million to defeat the initiative and Fresenius Medical Care of Kansas has spent $29.3 million. Fairbanks declined to say what the ultimate budget is.

But Regan predicted the dialysis companies would spend $150 million to defeat Proposition 8.

A $150 million campaign seems unlikely; there are only two weeks until the Nov. 6 election day. But there’s little doubt that dialysis companies are willing to spend whatever it will take to defeat Proposition 8.

The $105 million-plus no-on-8 campaign would not be a California record but probably will be the single costliest state race in the nation this year.

“It is an incredibly lucrative line of business and they’re determined to defend the business model,” Regan said, calling dialysis “the payday lending part of the healthcare industry.”

Unlike other labor-backed campaigns, in which unions join together, Regan’s 100,000-member union is all but alone and has no coalition.

His Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West spent $17.6 million on the campaign. Others gave a relative pittance:

  • $1 million from the California State Council of Service Employees International, the union’s umbrella.
  • $2,500 from an electrical workers’ local.
  • $53,000 from the California Democratic Party

Latest in Blogs

Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris before the start of the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Thursday, June 27, 2019, in Miami.


Frontrunner no more: California poll puts Harris on top and Biden (way) down

Animal rights advocate Deborah Classen holds a poster featuring rabbits to support a bill that would ban fur from wild animals., at a Capitol hearing July 9, 2019.


Fur flies as California moves closer to a statewide ban


Introducing a new look for CalMatters

Students are joining teachers in the rain today on the picket line at Marshall High School in Los Angeles, as an LAUSD teachers strike began. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News


If L.A. won’t raise taxes for schools, will Californians vote to overhaul a Proposition 13?

Gov. Gavin Newsom surrounded by legislators at the 2019 State of the State address in the Capitol. Photo by Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio


Newsom’s biggest budget win? Lawmakers didn’t break his heart


A million independent voters risk being irrelevant in California’s presidential primary