How the nursing home industry, organized labor, John Burton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger are cooperating to guarantee giant health care corporations huge profits -- using billions of your dollars

Lisa Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the alliance between the SEIU and the nursing home industry, refused to comment for this column; in an earlier discussion, Hubbard said the alliance would not pursue tort reform "this year." An SEIU lobbyist did not return my call. A spokeswoman for Burton's office referred me to a staffer, who did not respond to requests for an interview.

An SEIU lobbyist did spell out details of the union's agreement with the nursing home industry in a recent e-mail message sent to disability advocates. The memo suggested that this week's $3 billion Medi-Cal bill is part of a multistep package, the ultimate aim of which is the trade in which nursing homes get limits on legal liability and the SEIU gets new members from the ranks of nursing home workers.

"These providers have agreed to remain neutral when workers at their facilities choose to form a union. This neutrality agreement is conditional on the gradual implementation of the full range of nursing home reforms," wrote the SEIU's Mark Polit three weeks ago in an e-mail that defended the union's work lobbying to limit elderly patients' right to sue.

The aforementioned "full range" of reforms began with this week's gut-and-amend bill. While the SEIU/nursing home industry "alliance" has not specifically laid out its lobbying plans, tort reform opponents such as the AARP and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform say they have every expectation that the union will support such legislation next year.

By then, thanks to term limits, John Burton will have retired. You can bet he won't be in a nursing home.

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