Kaiser Reaches Deal With 80,000 Workers, Averts October Strike

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Two days of negotiations have yielded a tentative agreement between Kaiser Permanente and 80,000 of its union workers, staving off a nationwide strike set for Oct. 14.

A Kaiser Permanente building near its headquarters in Oakland, Calif. (Coolcaesar via Wikipedia)

The union announced the four-year deal early Wednesday morning, which promises annual 3% raises for workers in California, Oregon and southern Washington state. Those in the rest of Washington state, as well as Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia will receive a 3% raise the first year, and 2% plus a 1% lump sum over the remaining three years.

Ultrasound technologist Georgette Bradford of Sacramento, California, said the agreement will help “rebuild the worker-management partnership that has been so important to all of us in making Kaiser successful over the last 20 years.”

“Reaching an agreement was not easy, it had lots of twists and turns, but in the end we accomplished what we set out to do – reach an agreement that is good for patients, workers and our communities,” she said in a statement.

California Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, D- San Diego, congratulated the workers, saying, “When workers stand together, they show their strength. Congratulations to the Kaiser workers for reaching an historic agreement today to protect good, middle-class jobs in health care.”

The agreement averts what was set to be the largest strike since the Teamsters walked off the job at UPS in 1997.

Kaiser’s national contract with workers expired Sept. 30, 2018. Worker frustration has only mounted since then, as the nonprofit health care giant took in more than $5.2 billion in profits so far this year, on top of the more than $37 billion it has amassed in reserves.

Meanwhile, patients’ insurance rates have shot up. The SEIU-UHW says health insurance premiums rose 9.2% this year for individuals and 4.7% for large groups plans.

At the same time, the union said Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson received a 60% raise in 2017 that brought his salary to $16 million a year.

The provisional deal, the union said, protects workers’ jobs and retirement benefits, bans subcontracting, limits outsourcing, and provides $130 million for training opportunities. Workers still must ratify the agreement.

“This agreement is a testament to the dedication, compassion and skill those employees bring to work every day and demonstrates that Kaiser Permanente and the coalition have a shared commitment to affordability for our members,” Arlene Peasnall, Kaiser’s interim chief human resources officer, said in a statement.

Peasnall also touted Kaiser’s “unparalleled track record” of deal-making with labor groups. “We may disagree at times, but we have always been able to work through our challenges to align on common goals,” she said.

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