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Kaiser Workers Stay On The Job With A Tentative Labor Agreement

Courtesy: MGN

PORTLAND,Ore–On Saturday, November 13, 2021, Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions reached tentative agreement on a 4-year contract, covering nearly 50,000 Kaiser Permanente health care employees in 22 local unions, and strengthening the Labor Management Partnership.

The agreement includes new staffing language to continue to protect employees and patients, annual wage increases and maintains benefits while providing career development and advancement opportunities for Alliance union-represented employees. When ratified, the agreement will ensure Kaiser Permanente patients continue to receive safe, high-quality care and service; maintain Alliance union members’ industry-leading wages and benefits; and ensure Kaiser Permanente remains affordable for its members in the future.

“The Alliance of Health Care Unions fought to preserve a Kaiser Permanente where patients can count on excellent patient care and service. This has guided our work for 24 years. This agreement will mean patients will continue to receive the best care, and Alliance members will have the best jobs,” said Hal Ruddick, Executive Director, Alliance of Health Care Unions. “This contract protects our patients, provides safe staffing, and guarantees fair wages and benefits for every Alliance member.”

Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance unions have a longstanding history of successful bargaining to collaboratively address mutual interests of all parties.

“This landmark agreement positions Kaiser Permanente for a successful future focused on providing high-quality health care that is affordable and accessible for our more than 12 million members and the communities we serve. It also underscores our unwavering commitment to our employees by maintaining industry-leading wages and benefits,” said Christian Meisner, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente. “These were challenging negotiations, but this tentative agreement demonstrates the strength of our Labor Management Partnership and the unique success it can achieve when we work together.”

Details of the tentative agreement include:

  • Wage increases: Guaranteed across-the-board wage increases each year through 2025 in every region for all Alliance-represented employees
  • Health benefits: No reductions or takeaways to already low-cost family medical and dental coverage with the same low co-pays for prescriptions and office visits
  • Retirement benefits: The Agreement maintains generous retirement income benefits and employer-subsidized retiree medical
  • Bonus opportunities: Introduction of the Alliance Bonus Plan, which provides annual payouts for achieving new mutually agreed to objectives to address affordability
  • New safe staffing and workload language: Will ensure every Kaiser Permanente patient receives extraordinary care every time and in every place
  • Opportunities for career growth: Alliance-represented employees will continue to have excellent career development and advancement opportunities

The Alliance and Kaiser Permanente have agreed to form a national Affordability and Competitiveness Task Force with specific targets to find innovative ways to address issues of affordability while continuing to work together to protect high-quality patient care. The tentative agreement was approved by members of the economic subcommittee of the Alliance of Health Care Unions and will now go to union members for ratification. Voting on the tentative agreement will occur over the next several weeks. If ratified, the agreement will have an effective date of October 1, 2021.In light of this, the Alliance unions have canceled their strike notifications. Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance are part of the longest-running, most successful, and innovative labor management partnership in the nation.

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve approximately 12.5 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.

Statement from Oregon Federation Of Nurses and Health Professionals

The 52,000 members of the Alliance of Healthcare Unions, which includes the 3,400 Kaiser employees of Oregon and Southwest Washington who are represented by the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), have reached a tentative agreement. Among the various pieces of the contract, workers pushed back on Kaiser’s “two-tier” wage proposal and won good wage increases, racial justice language, and language to address the staffing crisis.

“The pressure our members, including leaders and community, put on Kaiser and the threat of a strike worked and moved Kaiser leadership to do the right thing and settle a proposal that will improve care for the entire community ,” says Jodi Barschow, a Kaiser Sunnyside RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT, AFL-CIO (OFNHP Local 5017), the union that represents Kaiser workers in Oregon and Washington. “We look forward to supporting our patients and working with Kaiser to improve care across the country.”

            Because of our pressure we defeated Kaiser’s dangerous “two tier” wage proposal, which would have paid incoming frontline healthcare workers much less than their peers. Our victories include higher wages and wage scale improvements, racial justice improvements, and a staffing committee that will begin to tackle the understaffing crisis at Kaiser. Each of our bargaining units have additional language themselves, which will help to improve conditions at Kaiser. This is a step in our continuing  fight for safe staffing and healthcare justice by organizing in our worksites and in our communities.

The strike had been authorized by 96% of OFNHP members based in Oregon and Southwest Washington, including RNs, Pros, and Lab Professionals. The staffing crisis has affected all healthcare industries, yet has been an issue these workers say that they have faced for many years. This is simply a first step to addressing these issues, which workers will continue to organize around so that we can provide the best possible care for our patients.

“Today, patient care won out over profit and greed,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “While the members must have their say on ratification, this tentative national and local agreement shows Kaiser finally understood the solidarity and determination of our members to secure what was needed to ensure patient and health care worker wellbeing. It shifted the paradigm from concession bargaining to a constructive negotiation. It invests in safe staffing levels, stops two-tier wages and gets workers a much needed raise. And it builds on rather than frays the commitment to labor-management partnership. We honor the workers’ fight as a demonstration, once again, that together we can achieve what would be impossible alone.”

Now that the tentative agreement has been reached, both locally and nationally, our members will need to vote on the contract. Those ratification votes will begin in the coming days after information sessions to allow every member to know what is in the new agreement.

 



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