Kaiser Permanente strike averted: What you need to know

Workers from three different unions and thousands of others were supposed to hit the picket line this morning.

Nearly 32,000 Kaiser Permanente workers avoided a trip to the picket line Nov. 13 as negotiations averted a strike by three labor unions which would have impacted hundreds of healthcare facilities across southern California.

Here’s what you need to know about the labor action.

Who was going to strike?

About 32,000 members of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP), United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7600 and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (OFNHP) had called for a strike to begin Nov. 15 in an action that would have impacted 366 facilities in southern California alone, according to a report from Fierce Healthcare.

The Sacramento Bee reports that many other workers were expected to stage one-day walkouts in support of the unions, saying that organizations representing a further 64,000 workers have pledged to picket for a day.

Stockton Record reports that an additional 2,500 Kaiser Permanente pharmacists, of the Guild for Professional Pharmacists, were also planning to strike for 10 days starting Nov. 15.

Why are they striking?

According to Fierce Healthcare, the dispute pertained to contract negotiations between Kaiser Permanente and the unions. The union claimed that the company offered insufficient pay to employees who are already dealing with short staffing.

How was it averted?

On Nov. 13, the sides agreed to a tentative four-year contract agreement covering about 50,000 Kaiser Permanente employees across 22 unions. It includes new staffing language, annual wage increases, and maintains benefits, according to a news release announcing the agreement.

The contract, which also includes provisions providing bonus and career growth opportunities for employees, still awaits ratification.

“The Alliance of Health Care Unions fought to preserve a Kaiser Permanente where patients can count on excellent patient care and service,” Hal Ruddick, executive director of Alliance of Health Care Unions, says in the release. “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. This contract protects our patients, provides safe staffing, and guarantees fair wages and benefits for every Alliance member.”

The unions and Kaiser Permanente have also agreed to form a national task force on affordability and competitiveness with specific targets on finding wars to address affordability while still providing quality care for patients, the release says.

“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,” Christian Meisner, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente, says in the release. “It also underscores our unwavering commitment to our employees by maintaining industry-leading wages and benefits. 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.”