Archive for the ‘Labor & Unions’ Category

Construction workers’ organization unhappy with “discriminatory and costly” PLA in Antioch’s desal plant contract

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Note: The following letter was sent via email to the five members of the Antioch City Council on Thursday, Dec. 24.

Antioch City Councilmembers,

When you placed a discriminatory and costly Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on the Brackish Desal Plant in 2018 we warned you not only what it would do to discriminate against local construction workers but what it would do to your costs. Judging by the manner in which you snuck the approval for the contract to build it through on a Friday night before Christmas with no public notice, you obviously did not want us to remind you.

But here we are.

A reminder of the bigotry you approved: Your welfare for local union bosses in the form of a PLA forces all workers to pay union dues, pay into union pensions they’ll never vest in (that’s wage theft) and explicitly discriminates against young men and women in state approved non-union apprentice programs by banning them from working at all. Any union-free contractor who worked on the job would only be allowed a few of their own employees period with all others coming from union hiring halls. The result? Reduced bidders and increased costs. 85% of the local workforce is union-free, as is the state’s construction workforce. That number holds true for your contractor base as well. These companies simply don’t bid work with PLAs on it so the results are higher bids from those who do, as every major study conducted proves and as you just learned firsthand.

So, a project that you had estimated would cost $60 million before the PLA has now been awarded for $86,689,000. BUT THAT OF COURSE IS NOT ALL. There is a 5% contingency of $4,334,450 in case of “unforeseen costs” (count on it) for a total of $91,023,450. BUT THAT IS NOT ALL EITHER. In addition, you authorized city staff to increase the total budget for the desalination project to $110 million.

In 21 years of fighting PLAs we have never seen a PLA come in this far over budget. Ever. Congrats.

Of course, a body who took their fiduciary responsibility to ratepayers seriously would have rebid this with no PLA and compared costs but your canine affection for big labor special interests wouldn’t allow for this. So here we are.

We will continue to monitor this debacle and make sure citizens are kept updated. The story that recently ran in the East Bay Times about this last-minute cram down before Christmas did not mention the PLA. We will make sure the next one does.

Merry Christmas.

Eric Christen

Executive Director

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction

 

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Senator Glazer calls BART labor contract extension “premature”, “big mistake”, Board VP Foley supports, Director Allen oppose

Friday, December 4th, 2020

State Senator Steve Glazer and screenshot of BART Board meeting, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.

Board approves contract “after secret negotiations were held during BART Directors’ campaign elections” he said.

“…giving space to someone who can’t pronounce our past GM’s name or spell eBART correctly and someone who makes false claim after false claim is a disservice to the public and spreads lies.” – BART Director Li

“These agreements offer BART budgetary stability as we plan our recovery from COVID-19.” – Board V.P. Foley.

“The contract extensions come seven months before the contracts are due to expire, locking in employee costs at pre-pandemic levels…at the level that it was when we were carrying 410,000 riders each week day and now we carry about 50 (thousand).” – BART Director Allen

By Allen Payton

In an attempt to get them to reconsider the proposed labor contract with employee unions, State Senator Steve Glazer challenged the BART Board during their meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3. He asked why they were considering the contract long before it’s set to expire, and more is known about the impacts of COVID-19 next year. In response, he was called a liar by one director.

Nevertheless, the BART Board voted 7-2 in favor of the contract, with Directors Debra Allen from Contra Costa County and Liz Ames from Alameda County casting the votes against. Board Vice President Mark Foley who represents Antioch on the board voted in favor of the contract extension.

Glazer issued a statement earlier this week about BART’s announcement “on Thanksgiving eve…(about) a tentative labor contract with their represented groups, after secret negotiations were held during BART Directors’ campaign elections.”

“Along with other specific contract changes, this tentative agreement is premature and a big mistake and will likely harm BART riders, commuters and taxpayers through fare hikes and service erosion,” his statement continued.

Glazer read most of the statement during the Thursday meeting, but offering additional comment.

“I want to be clear what I have to say reflects my views of accountability and trust that the public expects from all of us,” he said. “I think we all agree that BART is in a financial meltdown due to the pandemic and it’s not clear to me that you have a clear plan for recovery. The district’s own financial analysis projects a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars by next summer amidst the steepest decline in ridership in your agency’s history. My view, the district needs all the flexibility it can to avoid a financial disaster. Yet, BART is tying its hands with this agreement.”

“In the first half of 2021 BART will have a clearer idea about the COVID-19 vaccine availability, ridership improvements, any potential financial bailout assistance from the federal government, and the results of your early retirement incentives that have already been offered to existing employees,” Glazer explained. “All of these potential outcomes will provide important budgetary insight that should shape any new contract terms. But instead of waiting for that information, you are now rushing to approve a contract, negotiated behind closed doors, with no public notice and it will prevent you from making any kind of targeted salary reductions if your revenues do not recover. This will likely lead to service reductions and fare increases which will hurt the very people you are here to serve.”

His statement issued on Monday adds, “BART is leaving few options but to lay off employees and curtail the number of trains, which would further depress ridership and deepen the agency’s financial crisis.

“So, I come here with a question,” Glazer continued during the meeting. “The current labor contract with your representative employee groups doesn’t expire until July 1st, 2021. So, why did the district make an early agreement with so many economic unknowns?”

“It’s my understanding that BART has not even done a salary survey of other transit districts and public agencies to determine if the current salaries called for in this agreement are needed to recruit and retain qualified employees, basic data needed to inform any effective negotiation,” he said. “I question whether the failure to conduct a salary survey is keeping with board policy and procedures.”

“Now, the public was never told when your negotiations started. I’m told these negotiations were initiated by the Board in September and October. If true, that means that directors were negotiating with BART unions on their salaries and benefits on one hand, while asking the same unions for campaign contributions with the other hand. This is an outrageous injection of politics in a hugely consequential employer-employee agreement. And by setting the terms of the agreement at three years rather than four years based on past contract durations, the future contract will be negotiated during another election year.”

“You know that, Board members, before you came to this board for the most of you, had worked for a long time to ensure the contract negotiations would not be immersed in politics and election year circumstances. So, that four-year duration was done purposely. You unravel that in this proposed contract before you.

“In this agreement, for the most part, you’ve abandoned any of the work rule changes that were central to the 2013 contract negotiations. Where have those work rules been laid out, publicly disclosed and discussed, so that we can understand why they’ve been abandoned in this agreement.”

“You know, when the strike happened in 2013, BART management was clear that the work rules were probably more important than the salaries and benefits being negotiated. It had that kind of consequence and impact on the agency. But there’s a complete void of understanding or knowledge about what efforts were made to negotiate those work rules.”

It reversed important e-BART reforms that were instituted by former General Manager Grace Crunican. Again, BART, the board members, and the management (were) very involved in establishing those eBART reforms which you’re throwing out in this proposed contract.”

So, it’s not surprising to me, that you are moving forward with due haste to approve these negotiations and rush this contract through with very little public review, and I think that it’s because the details and the consequences are uncomfortable.

“I would hope that you will reconsider what you are doing, today and take a more deliberate and cautious approach to these negotiations as you consider the full impact of the pandemic on our economy. It would be best for your financial well-being and more importantly for BART riders throughout the Bay Area.”

“In conclusion, let me just say that the foundation of your service as board members is to ensure that this transportation system is able to function during good times and bad times. This contract continues the limitation against training management to run the trains during a work stoppage. So, all of BART riders, many of them low-income people who can’t afford to stay home, will be prevented from getting to work under this contract provision. We’re talking about teachers and nurses, social workers, grocery clerks and other essential workers, who will all be left stranded if your trains stop running because you created this self-inflicted problem.”

“This strike protection provision is an abdication of your sacred duty and will limit future boards from helping the commuters when matters cannot be worked out at the bargaining table. And listen, we all would strongly hope that all matters can be worked out at the bargaining table.”

In  his issued statement, Glazer included, “BART’s management doesn’t want the public to see what they are doing because they know that BART riders and other Bay Area residents would not support this agreement if they understood its details and its consequences.”

The BART Directors then took up the issue of the labor union contract.

General Manager Robert Powers responded to Glazer, saying, “I was the one…negotiating these tentative agreements with our labor partners. There were no elected officials in those discussions. I was supported primarily by our chief labor negotiations officer as well as our AGM of Operations. I wanted to be…crystal clear that it was me leading these negotiations under the authorization granted to me by the BART Board.”

During public comments, Sal Cruz, president of AFSCME Local 3093 said, “Our work has accelerated during this pandemic at great risk to our employees, as we position ourselves for the recovery we know will come. Proper positioning will be critical for the survival of all transit and for the Bay Area economy that is now linked to BART. Thank you for your leadership during these challenging times. Every transit agency in the country is in the same position as you are, now. The decision before you, today, is not an easy one. But it allows us to focus on rebuilding o ur system, continuing to provide safe transportation for our essential workers and preparing for the return of our riders. The workforce is behind you, the riders are behind you and the Bay Area is behind you.”

BART Director Li. Video screenshot of board meeting, Dec. 3, 2020.

Li Calls Out Glazer

BART Director Janice Li, who represents District 8 which includes portions of San Francisco, spoke next calling out Glazer for lying, mispronouncing the past general manager and misspelling eBART (it was spelled “e-Bart” in his statement from earlier in the week.

“I am proud to vote yes on this action, today. A yes vote, today is a yes vote for BART, is a yes for our riders and a very, very important yes for our workers,” she said. “Voting no makes BART an enemy to our workers and our riders.”

“There has been a lot of talk about this decision coming forward as too early or as a result of private meetings. I just want to be very clear that this claim is factually not true,” she stated. “First, I’m a member of the board’s labor negotiations review committee. We have been meeting since May of this year, then again in July, then again in August. These meetings are open to the public. They are publicly noticed and at subsequent board meetings we always give updates during board reports.”

“Second, we have held multiple closed session meetings regarding labor relations in recent months, and once again they have always been noticed as part of our board agenda,” Li continued. “Third, people who are saying that this is too early are saying that because the financial situation ahead is so unclear and that the board should wait until more is known. The truth is that things will inevitably change. But our staff has been doing excellent work in scenario planning and being transparent about all the potential futures, both good and bad. Furthermore, this contract is not one in the same as our budget revisions. In fact, this does not mean layoffs can’t or won’t happen. So, saying that by voting, yes it ties our hands or limits our options is incorrect.”

“And fourth, respectfully, I strongly refute the false claims made by Senator Glazer. Honestly, giving space to someone who can’t pronounce our past GM’s name or spell eBART correctly and someone who makes false claim after false claim is a disservice to the public and spreads lies. The idea that this was timed with elections is wrong and I will speak for myself, I was not up for election, re-election and I have not raised a cent for re-election, this year and I was not even endorsed by unions when I first ran in 2018.”

“So, what we actually have before us is a result of an incredible collaboration between BART management and labor unions and at the end of the day, who benefits?” she asked. “It’s our riders.”

She then thanked “the entire BART team for rebuilding trust with our labor unions and of course I want to thank our labor union partners for being collaborative at an incredibly difficult time.”

“As a board member I’m incredibly grateful that this decision is coming to us sooner rather than later so we can get back to focusing on running a safe system for our essential workers and implement a successful recovery plan during and through the pandemic that has raged every public transit agency, every public institution and every aspect of our lives. Let’s vote yes on this, today and if you remember our new slogan from the board workshop, earlier this year which, I know feels like years ago, ‘Let’s Go,’” she concluded.

Foley Speaks in Support

Board Vice President Mark Foley speaks on the matter during the meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Video screenshot.

Foley shared his thoughts in support of the contract.

“There was a lot of hard work that went in to making this happen. I am fully in support of this prudent approach to labor negotiations during the pandemic,” he said. “These agreements offer BART budgetary stability as we plan our recovery from COVID-19. A wage freeze, next year, coupled with two years, of at most, very modest increases, increases that are directly tied to returning ridership and BART’s financial recovery, is a responsible course of action to take.”

“More importantly, you know these contracts provide language to allow us to reopen negotiations, a necessary safety net during these challenging times,” Foley continued. “These proactive steps are being taken to hopefully avoid further service cuts, like closing stations, eliminating weekend service or laying off employees, employees that will be needed when we ramp up service.”

“And to those employees I say thank you. You are BART’s most important asset,” he stated. “We wouldn’t have been successful if not for the collaboration of your union leadership and union partners.”

“And lastly, I’d like to thank the district secretary’s office for bringing this item, publishing this agenda to the board, two days early rather than publishing it during the Thanksgiving holiday. This gave us additional transparency around this action. I urge my fellow board members to vote in support of these tentative agreements and I fully support this motion,” Foley concluded.

Allen Offers Arguments Against Contract

BART Director Debora Allen speaks during the board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Video screenshot.

Director Allen spoke against the contracts and supported what Glazer said.

“First, I want to touch on the private meetings because that seems to be a contentious little dialogue. I believe that is absolutely how these contracts come to be,” she said. “It is unfortunate the board discussion about these agreements doesn’t happen in public session. I believe we shouldn’t be discussing the contract extensions in closed door sessions where board members may say things that they would not say in public. In addition, I really do believe not enough of our own closed board discussion has occurred prior to this day of ratification.”

“There’s so much operational uncertainty, right now for BART and I’m not comfortable that the financial projections and plan give us the data we need for this decision,” Allen continued. “It’s really hard to say whether these are fair contracts. But despite having received $377 million in federal CARES Act subsidies already, this year, BART  projects another $210 million deficit over the next 18 months and that is the case after we slashed the capital and pension funding allocations from the Fiscal Year ‘21 budget, along with the load shedding to the capital budget that has occurred throughout this year.”

“From my view we should be receiving regular updates of projected deficits for three years…and that information should be part of any decision by this board to extend labor contracts for three years out. They go together. Labor is 80% of our budget,” she stated.

“So, now we are all hopeful that another $377 million will come to us from D.C. and we’re hopeful that the retirement incentive will induce enough people to retire from exactly the right positions that we can afford to eliminate which we know is not really a reasonable assumption. We already know that some people are retiring from positions that we are going to have to turn around and refill,” Allen said. “We shouldn’t be budgeting to hopeful or aspiration. This is what we did back in June when we passed the budget, and it didn’t work out. We really projected far more revenue than we have. But, if even if those other things come true…it will likely only fund another three-quarters to one year of operating deficits. And it won’t do anything to make up for the lack of capital funding and pension funding that we put aside in ’21 and are likely to do, again in Fiscal Year ’22.”

“The contract extensions come seven months before the contracts are due to expire, locking in employee costs at pre-pandemic levels even as revenue projects remain wildly uncertain well into the next couple of years,” she explained. “Costs will be locked in at the level that it was when we were carrying 410,000 riders each weekday and now we carry about 50 (thousand).”

Other board members spoke, mostly in favor of the contract extension and they then voted 7-2 to approve.

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Texas man charged with defrauding Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 of $4.5 million

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

Scheme allegedly involved kickbacks paid in bricks of cash wrapped in silver bags

OAKLAND – Scott A. Wilson was arrested today in connection with a complaint unsealed in Oakland alleging that he defrauded the Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, based in Alameda, California, of approximately $4.5 million, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John L. Bennett, and U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Quentin Heiden.

According to the complaint, Wilson, 52, of Corsicana, Texas, was the director of the union’s information technology department, where he had authority to purchase goods and services.  While working for the union, Wilson allegedly set up a front company called OST.  Using the alias, “John Lasson,” Wilson allegedly used OST to receive funds from the union, at first directly and then through two other front companies set up by a friend and a relative under Wilson’s direction.  Between 2011 and 2017, Wilson allegedly used these front companies to fraudulently invoice the union for IT-related goods and services that were never to be delivered, taking some funds directly through OST, and others through kickbacks paid by his friend and relative.  Wilson also allegedly used the front companies to conceal payments made with union funds to his own family members, primarily for work that was never done.  At one point, according to the complaint, Wilson arranged for the union funds to be withdrawn from the front companies’ accounts and delivered to him at various restaurants around the Bay Area in the form of cash, wrapped in the shape of bricks and placed in silver bags.

The complaint alleges that over the course of six years, in total Wilson fraudulently directed approximately $4.5 million to the front companies, of which $2.5 million was kicked directly back to Wilson in various ways.  The complaint further alleges that Wilson used the allegedly embezzled funds to, among other things, purchase land in Corsicana, Texas, and build himself a house there.

According to the complaint, the scheme was discovered when the union’s finance department learned that Wilson had concealed that he was the principal behind one of the front companies with which his IT department was conducting business.

Wilson was arrested on June 26, 2020, in Corsicana, Texas, and made an appearance in federal court in Dallas this afternoon.   He was ordered to appear in federal court in Oakland on July 13, 2020.

A complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000, along with potential restitution and forfeiture.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Labor Management Standards.

 

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Union agreement with Kaiser will help healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients

Monday, April 13th, 2020

80,000 workers who are members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions covered by agreement

By Steve Trossman, Service Employees Union International

OAKLAND, Calif. – An agreement with healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente will ease some of the major burdens facing workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, including assistance with childcare and temporary shelter, and extra leave for workers who are tested or diagnosed with COVID-19.

The measures provide support for 80,000 workers who are members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, more workers than covered by any such agreement in the nation. They apply to full-time, part-time and per-diem employees and can serve as a model for other hospitals and health systems to protect healthcare workers and the public.

“As healthcare workers in the middle of this pandemic, we know our duty is to our patients and the community, and we take that duty very seriously. But we can only give our best if we know our own lives and our families are protected as well,” said Juanita Kamhoot, who works in surgical survices at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas, OR. “This agreement will make a real difference at a time when we need every healthcare worker on the job and focused on taking care of COVID-19 patients.”

The agreement focuses on three key areas:

CHILD-CARE ASSISTANCE: With schools closed, many healthcare employees are having difficulty finding affordable childcare. Under the agreement, Kaiser employees who work 32 hours a week or more in a KP facility will be eligible for a grant of $300 per week to pay for childcare for children 14 or younger (and disabled, dependent children). It can be used to pay for their own caregiver (as long as they are not a spouse or domestic partner) or to find childcare outside of the home.

The stipend will last until May 31, 2020 and will be pro-rated for employees who work between 20 and 32 hours (including per-diem employees) with a minimum of $210 a week.

TEMPORARY SHELTER: Kaiser will work with several hotel chains to provide alternative shelter for employees who:

  • Test positive for COVID-19;
  • Work a double shift;
  • Work multiple 12-hour shifts;
  • Have fewer than 8 hours between shifts; or
  • Have a household member who either has COVID-19 or is in a CDC-defined vulnerable group.

Eligibility applies to all employees working at least 20 hours per week (including per-diem employees) at a KP facility between April 13 and May 31, 2020.

EIGHTY ADDITIONAL HOURS OF LEAVE FOR EMPLOYEES WHO TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19: Employees working at a KP facility more than 20 hours a week (including per-diem employees) who test positive for COVID-19 will receive up to 80 hours of administrative leave. This is above and beyond regularly accrued leave. Employees who are sent home from Kaiser and are awaiting a test result will also be covered.

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 https://www.unioncoalition.org/.

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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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