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Kaiser Permanente workers to start voting on new contract this week

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Article

Health system, union announce details about agreement, including wage raises.

hospital workers: © spotmatikphoto - stock.adobe.com

© spotmatikphoto - stock.adobe.com

Unionized employees of Kaiser Permanente will begin ratifying a new work agreement starting Oct. 18.

Health care workers left their jobs Oct. 4 to 7 for the largest strike of its kind in U.S. history. On Oct. 13, the health system and coalition of unions representing the staff announced a tentative agreement, with additional details disclosed later.

“The new 4-year agreement will offer Coalition-represented employees competitive wages, excellent benefits, generous retirement income plans, and valuable job training opportunities that support their economic well-being, advance our shared mission, and keep Kaiser Permanente a best place to work and receive care,” the health system said in a statement.

Once approved by the workers, the contract will have a retroactive start date of Oct. 1. The unions released a ratification schedule with worker voting at dozens of facilities, lasting into early November. The coalition of unions also published a statement regarding the agreement.

“This deal is life-changing for frontline healthcare workers like me, and life-saving for our patients,” said a statement from Yvonne Esquivel, a pediatric medical assistant at Kaiser Permanente in Gilroy, California. “Thousands of Kaiser healthcare workers fought hard for this new agreement, and now we will finally have the resources we need to do the job we love and keep our patients safe.”

Kaiser Permanente announced provisions of the agreement:

  • Over three years, new minimum wages will grow to $25 an hour in California and $23 an hour in other states where Kaiser Permanente has health facilities.
  • Wages will go up 21% over four years.
  • Workers’ performance sharing plan will have enhancements for minimum and maximum payouts.

Professional development and job training will have increases, along with new initiatives to “address the staffing crisis in health care.” The union said initiatives will include streamlined hiring practices, mass hiring events, and commitments to training current and future health care workers.

The agreement also will have “protective terms around subcontracting and outsourcing,” keeping experienced workers in their jobs and ensuring continuity of care for patients, according to the union.

The Kaiser Permanente statement said the unions have withdrawn their notices of intent to strike in November.

The health care system and coalition of unions credited the intervention of U.S. Acting Labor Secretary Julie A. Su. The unions published a statement from her in the news release.

“What the parties have achieved here in Oakland demonstrates, once again, that collective bargaining works,” Su said. “When workers have a voice and a seat at the table, it can result in historic gains for workers, their employer, and our country.

“The President and I congratulate the parties on reaching a mutually beneficial deal that delivers important stability for this critical workforce, for Kaiser Permanente, and for the patients in their collective care,” Su’s statement said.

The strike involved about 40% of Kaiser’s total workforce in facilities around California, Colorado, Washington, Virginia, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. The union’s statement said the work agreement will strengthen patient care in those states and in Kaiser facilities in Hawaii and Maryland.

The agreement succeeds the union’s labor contract last negotiated in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The union touted the deal as setting “a new potential bar for negotiations already underway at Prime Healthcare and other area health systems.” At Prime Healthcare, almost 2,000 workers were concluding a five-day unfair labor practice strike over negotiations to improve unsafe working and patient-care conditions caused by staffing shortages.

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