Archive for the ‘Labor & Unions’ Category

Kaiser Permanent responds to strike vote by SEIU United Healthcare Workers

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

In response to the vote to strike by the Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers (see related article), John Nelson, Vice President, Communications, Kaiser Permanente issued the following statement:

Kaiser Permanente and SEIU-UHW have been working together toward a mutually beneficial agreement as part of the national bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions that began in April. Unfortunately, UHW leadership has decided to use the threat of a strike as a bargaining tactic, designed to divide employees and mischaracterize Kaiser Permanente’s position, even though most of the contracts don’t expire until October.

We believe the result of the strike vote reflects obviously misleading ballot questions used by the union:

  • “I vote YES to authorize our bargaining team to call for a strike to protest Kaiser’s illegal behavior and unfair labor practices and to show my support for a contract with good raises, no take-aways and a ban on subcontracting.”
  • “I vote NO and am willing to accept a contract that increases our medical costs, cuts our pensions and retiree medical benefits, offers lower pay scales and raises that are less for Oregon and Washington than California.”

To be clear, Kaiser Permanente has presented a contract proposal that would provide annual pay increases that would keep our employees compensated higher than market averages and maintain excellent benefits. Contrary to the union’s claims, there are no pay cuts and no changes to our employees’ defined pension benefit, under our proposal.

It is important to understand that a strike vote does not mean that a strike is imminent, although it does place Kaiser Permanente in the position of having to spend millions of dollars preparing for the threat of a strike event. Our first priority is always continuity of care for our patients and members.

SEIU-UHW leadership is more interested in a power play to position themselves vis a vis other Kaiser Permanente unions – rather than focusing on what is best for their membership.  At a time when we are working hard to keep our care affordable, the Coalition’s demands are not fair to our members and the communities we serve. Coalition-represented employees are already compensated 23% above market rates—we pay well and we have markets where our wage rates are challenging our ability to be affordable. The Coalition’s proposal would actually increase our wages on average 32% above the market over the next five years, adding a billion dollars to our labor costs.

Despite the union leadership’s disruptive tactics, we are hopeful that our employees will value our proposal and SEIU-UHW and the other Coalition unions will move forward with us to reach a new agreement. Our goal is to continue to make Kaiser Permanente a great place to give and receive care.

Proposed Contract Offer

Kaiser Permanente’s bargaining proposal would provide employees with the following best-in-class conditions:

  • Solid wage increases. The average salary of Coalition-represented employees is already higher than market averages. Mindful of our goal to improve the affordability of health care and engage our employees in the effort, the current proposal provides guaranteed wage increases across the board each year through 2022 of 3% each year in Northern and Southern California.
  • Opportunities for new hires. Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition are proposing a $40 million Workforce Development Fund and creation of new-hire training positions, all part of the solution to address the national shortage of health care workers and help develop the next generation of unionized workers in health care.
  • Retirement security. The proposal preserves the existing defined pension plan along with other strong retirement benefits.
  • Career mobility. The proposal includes a more robust tuition reimbursement program for employees that allows more funds to be used for travel.
  • Affordable health care. The proposal includes a pharmacy utilization approach that incents employees to take greater responsibility for their health by rewarding them for increasing their use of mail-order prescriptions.

Just last year SEIU-UHW touted what it described as “strong wages and benefits” in the agreement it reached with Dignity Health, which included lower wage increases (13% over 5 years plus a one-time 1% bonus) than being offered by Kaiser Permanente, and only $2.5 million for workforce development, as compared to $40 million in Kaiser Permanente’s current proposal. (Source: SEIU-UHW press release, March 2018, http://www.seiu-uhw.org/archives/26114)

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Kaiser Permanente workers in Antioch, state vote to support strike beginning in October

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Strike would affect more than 24,000 Kaiser Permanente workers in the Bay Area, including more than 1,200 in Antioch. Voting results in five other states, D.C. expected by September; would be nation’s largest walkout since 1997

OAKLAND, CA  Kaiser Permanente workers in California poured out in large numbers to overwhelmingly authorize a strike in early October that would be the biggest in the United States in more than two decades.

Becoming the first of more than 80,000 Kaiser workers to vote, members of the Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) across the state voted between July 29 and Aug. 11 whether to approve the unfair labor practices strike at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics. More than 37,000 cast ballots in support of a strike (98 percent) while only 867 voted to oppose (2 percent). The turnout was uncommonly high for a strike vote in any industry, with two-thirds of workers casting ballots.

Strike authorization votes among other groups of Kaiser workers in California, and Kaiser Permanente employees in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia run through mid-September. The strike would start in early October and be the nation’s largest since the Teamsters’ walkout at United Parcel Service in 1997.

“Kaiser workers all over California are putting a stake in the ground that it’s time for this corporation to get back on track and live up to its mission to help patients, workers and communities thrive, said Heather Wright, a women’s health clerk at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, Calif. “This strike vote is about stopping Kaiser’s unfair labor practices. This company should be all about providing the best possible patient care, but unfortunately its focus in recent years has been on making billions of dollars in profits and millions of dollars for Kaiser executives.”

Workers want Kaiser Permanente to bargain in good faith and stop committing unfair labor practices, and are fighting for a new contract that would:

  1. Restore a true worker-management partnership, and have Kaiser bargain in good faith;
  2. Ensure safe staffing and compassionate use of technology;
  3. Build the workforce of the future to deal with major projected shortages of licensed and accredited staff in the coming years; and
  4. Protect middle-class jobs with wages and benefits that can support families.

As a non-profit entity, Kaiser Permanente is supposed to serve the public interest in exchange for billions of dollars in tax breaks. But in recent years, the corporation has departed from its mission:

  • Profits: Kaiser made more than $5.2 billion in profits during the first half of 2019, bringing its profits to more than $11 billion since Jan. 1, 2017. The company also sits on $35 billion in reserves.
  • Executive pay: Kaiser gave its CEO a $6 million raise to $16 million a year and pays at least 36 executives a million dollars or more a year.
  • Care for low-income patients: Kaiser provides very little care to Medicaid patients, far less than other non-profit health systems, even though it gets massive tax breaks in exchange for supposedly working in the public interest.
  • Financial transparency: Kaiser lacks transparency and operates in the shadows. It is exempt from many of the financial reporting requirements of other hospitals and health systems. Operating secretly allows Kaiser to avoid the kind of scrutiny consumers, employers, unions and regulators need to protect themselves and the public.
  • Turning its back on workers: Kaiser has worked to destroy what had been the most successful and largest worker-management partnership in the country that was a source of innovation and problem-solving for many years; it has committed numerous unfair labor practices, including refusing to bargain in good faith.
  • Destroying good jobs. Kaiser is actively destroying good jobs by outsourcing them to companies that pay low wages with few benefits, and wants to limit the wages and cut the benefits of its frontline healthcare employees.

The workers’ national contract expired Sept. 30, 2018, and in December 2018 the National Labor Relations Board charged Kaiser Permanente with failing to bargain in good faith. Since then, Kaiser has continued to commit unfair labor practices.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions comprises labor unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, representing more than 80,000 Kaiser caregivers. To learn more, visit www.KaiserKeepThriveAlive.com.     

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Kaiser responds to Tuesday evening’s planned healthcare worker protest at headquarters

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

In response to yesterday’s announcement by SEIU United Healthcare Workers, regarding launching a protest at Kaiser headquarters in Oakland, today at 5:00 p.m., John Nelson, Vice President Communications, Kaiser Permanente offered the following response.

Regarding the question about gardeners:

As we do with our other medical center campuses, Kaiser Permanente is engaging a professional commercial landscaping vendor at our remaining facilities in Northern California, giving all of our campuses the benefit of the most expert, efficient, and ecologically sound practices.

The decision about landscaping affects 63 employees, some of whom have already found other positions at Kaiser Permanente. We value these employees, and any affected employee who wishes to remain employed with Kaiser Permanente in a new role will be able to do so.

SEIU-UHW is making statements about Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to its employees that are misleading and incorrect. The truth is that Kaiser Permanente is growing and adding jobs overall. With more than 149,000 employees and 16,000 physicians, we have added more than 13,000 jobs in the state since 2016.  In fact, the number of our employees represented by SEIU-UHW has grown by more than 8,000 statewide since 2016.

On the planned labor activity:

Kaiser Permanente has been notified by SEIU-UHW leadership that the union plans to conduct informational picketing at several of our California offices and medical centers during May 2019. It’s important for our members and patients to know that informational picketing is not a strike and it does not impact our care delivery or operations. While this union is staging picketing, the physicians and employees of Kaiser Permanente will remain focused on the important work of delivering high-quality, affordable care to our members and improving the health of the communities we serve.

Kaiser Permanente started bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions in mid-April. We believe that by working together in partnership with the unions that represent our employees, we will continue to achieve the best results for our members, patients, and the communities who depend on Kaiser Permanente to provide high-quality, affordable health care — and help to keep Kaiser Permanente a great place to work for all. We reiterate our pledge to bargain in good faith and our commitment to reach fair and equitable agreements that provide our employees with excellent, market-competitive benefits and wages.

We are disappointed that some union leaders are choosing to make false allegations and pursue an adversarial, destructive approach as part of their bargaining strategy.

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Healthcare workers to launch protest Tues, May 7 at Kaiser Headquarters over job cuts, company’s spending

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Claim health giant is sitting on $31 billion, yet layoffs begin June 7

OAKLAND, Calif. Hundreds of healthcare workers, elected officials, faith leaders and community members concerned about healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente’s increasingly profit-driven behavior will rally at 5 p.m., Tuesday, May 7 at national company headquarters, 1 Kaiser Plaza in Oakland, to urge the company to reverse its plan to eliminate jobs at several facilities across Northern California. It is part of a protest at the headquarters and will include an encampment of laid-off workers and their families, a candlelight vigil, visits from politicians and clergy, and the building of a live garden.

“It really tells you something that Kaiser is sitting on tens of billions of dollars in reserves and paying its CEO $16 million a year but then cuts good jobs that support families – it tells you Kaiser is a corporation that has stopped caring about the community,” said Phil Osmond, a Kaiser gardener for 23 years in Oakland. “Kaiser is a non-profit company, and for many years it acted that way and was part of the community. But over the past 10 years it more and more acted like a typical for-profit corporation worried only about the bottom line.”

Under the plan, 63 gardeners will lose their jobs June 7 and an outside company would oversee an entirely new workforce that is paid less and receives fewer benefits than current Kaiser employees. Nearly 100 federal, state and local elected officials in California have sent letters to Kaiser opposing the corporation’s outsourcing plans.

Although the gardeners may be eligible for other jobs within the company, many are concerned they will not find suitable positions because they pay less, are part-time or do not match their skills and experience. Supporters of the workers also have expressed concern that a majority of the affected staff are women and people of color.

The gardeners work at facilities in the following 16 cities: Antioch; Fremont; Manteca; Modesto; Oakland; Richmond; San Francisco; San Jose; San Leandro; San Rafael; Santa Clara; Santa Rosa; Stockton; Vacaville; Vallejo; and Walnut Creek.

Despite being a non-profit organization and self-described community-oriented health provider, Kaiser appears to be behaving just like any other large, for-profit corporation. It reported reserves of $31.5 billion and profits of $6.3 billion the last two years. In 2017, its CEO received a 60 percent raise to more than $16 million in annual compensation, and 35 other executives received more than $1 million annually.

All the while, because it’s a non-profit organization, Kaiser does not have to pay income taxes or property taxes—thus saving itself an estimated $1.1 billion on California and federal income taxes alone in 2017. In contrast, the savings from outsourcing the gardeners is about $1 million, meaning those jobs could easily be protected without putting even a perceptible ripple in the company’s bottom line.

More than 55,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in California are members of SEIU-UHW.

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the western United States with 95,000 members. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org

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Federal labor board receives complaint against Kaiser Permanente for refusing to negotiate contract affecting 85,000 healthcare workers in 7 states

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

National Labor Relations Board to hold legal hearing March 19 in Oakland

By Sean Wherley, Media Relations Specialist, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West

The federal government recently indicted healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente for refusing to negotiate a contract affecting 85,000 employees in seven states and the District of Columbia, and for wrongly tying those negotiations to a ban on political activity against the company.

“The workers who have helped make this company so successful over the years now feel that their concerns are validated,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. “No longer can Kaiser Permanente claim it was trying to do right by its employees and patients by holding up bargaining and trying to stop workers from speaking out.”

Kaiser Permanente has until Jan. 11 to respond to the decision, and a legal hearing will begin March 19 in Oakland, according to the indictment released Dec. 28 by the National Labor Relations Board.

Kaiser Permanente employees filed a complaint in May 2018 because the company repeatedly canceled contract negotiations with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which comprises 11 labor unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The coalition’s national agreement with Kaiser Permanente expired Sept. 30, 2018. The company had previously negotiated contracts with the coalition since 1997.

Last November, Kaiser Permanente settled a contract with a different group of labor unions that prohibits those unions from taking action against the company, whether through ballot initiatives, legislation or other public campaigns. Kaiser tried to apply the same condition to bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions; however, the Dec. 28 indictment blocks that effort.

Kaiser Permanente’s refusal to bargain comes in the midst of a plan to outsource jobs to “save” money, despite the corporation reporting reserves of $30 billion and profits of $3.8 billion in 2017. In addition, the Kaiser CEO is paid more than $10 million annually, and 30 executives are paid more than $1 million a year.

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