The Stand

Strike averted as Kaiser unions reach tentative agreement

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Deal includes wage increases and wage justice, major staffing improvements, and two-tier is defeated

 

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 15, 2021) — After months of negotiations, the 52,000 members of the Alliance of Healthcare Unions, which includes the 3,400 Kaiser Permanente employees of Oregon and southwest Washington who are represented by the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), have reached a tentative agreement. Among the various pieces of the contract, workers pushed back on Kaiser’s “two-tier” wage proposal and won good wage increases, racial justice language, and language to address the staffing crisis. Plans for a strike that was set to begin on Monday were called off as the tentative agreement is reviewed and voted upon by the unions.

“The pressure our members, including leaders and community, put on Kaiser and the threat of a strike worked and moved Kaiser leadership to do the right thing and settle a proposal that will improve care for the entire community ,” says Jodi Barschow, a Kaiser Sunnyside RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT, AFL-CIO (OFNHP Local 5017), the union that represents Kaiser workers in Oregon and southwest Washington. “We look forward to supporting our patients and working with Kaiser to improve care across the country.”

Alliance of Health Care Unions includes locals of AFSCME, UFCW, USW, IBT, KPNAA, IUOE, OFNHP (AFT), UNITE HERE, ILWU, and HNHP. Together these unions represent some 52,000 members across hundreds of job classifications in nearly every geographic area where Kaiser Permanente has a presence.

Here’s an excerpt of what was posted Saturday by the Alliance:

We won a new tentative agreement with common annual wage increases, no two-tier, improvements to staffing, racial justice language to rectify disparate salaries, benefits raised closer to national standards in regions where they lag, increased funding for our education and partnership funds, and fair contracts for workers who have recently joined the union.

“This was a very hard-won victory, and we could not have done it without dedicated, sustained action by tens of thousands of members,” said Alliance chief negotiator Hal Ruddick. “We also are grateful for strong leadership from the AFL-CIO and all of our International Unions, as well as elected leaders and thousands of members of the public and our patients who supported us with donations, letters, social media, petitions, and more.”

Common Annual Wage Increases across the country with NO Two-Tier for New Hires: Our team was able to win the same annual wage increases for all members, regardless of region or date of hire! These raises are effective on October 1st of the following years: 3% 2021; 3% 2022; 2% + 2% bonus 2023; 2% + 2% bonus 2024.

Better staffing, budgeting and backfill agreements: Staffing continues to be our top challenge, and our labor staffing subcommittee team worked right up through the final hours to secure new tools to improve staffing transparency and engagement. Regional labor management staffing committees will meet monthly to discuss a broad range of specific topics. There will be monthly discussions with labor about vacant or modified positions and backfill strategies at the unit or department level, as well as reports about the status of filling vacancies. Management will share, on a quarterly basis, budget and backfill calculations with information disseminated to the UBT level so that management is accountable for filling positions that can stay open for too long due to “budget concern.” Labor and management will collaborate to develop strategies to address hard to fill positions and reduce the use of travelers and non-bargaining unit temporary employees. Unions will get monthly reports about patient satisfaction and access.

Wage justice: Members of the USW and Teamsters in the Inland Empire, and certain members of the UFCW in Kern County, have historically been paid on a lower, sub-regional wage scale. Alliance unions resolved that in this round of bargaining, we would unite to ensure that we begin to rectify this long-standing disparity. Under the TA, the affected unions and management will meet to decide how to make progress by distributing amongst the affected jobs 1.25% of payroll, beginning on July 1, 2022; and another 1.25% of payroll on July 1, 2023. These improvements will make significant progress towards equity.

The racial justice bargaining subcommittee also agreed on implementing processes and programs such as Belong@KP to address racial trauma/fatigue, and funding citizenship assistance.

Fair contracts for new union members: Newly organized members of UNAC/UHCP in NCAL and Hawaii, and of UFCW Local 21 in Washington, worked ceaselessly to secure first contracts with KP and achieved them with 52,000 Alliance members standing behind them in solidarity.

Align benefits to national standard: Continuing a long-time commitment to equal benefits for all Alliance members, we were able to bring local union benefits closer to the Alliance national standards in areas where they lag. Retiree medical for KP Washington members increases from $350 per year of service to $1,000 per year of service. Mid-Atlantic union members got a big decrease in out-of-pocket maximums. In Hawaii copays will be lowered from $15 to $10.

More money for Ben Hudnall educational fund: We won an additional $15 million for Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust to protect our educational benefits and advance our careers.

Local bargaining gains: Many local unions also won significant improvements to their local contracts. Check with your local union for details.

Preserve our PSP with increased focus on affordability: One element of partnership is making health care more affordable in order to increase access to health care. As part of this new agreement, we’ll keep the Performance Sharing Program (PSP) intact, and two-thirds of the annual bonus will be tied to joint initiatives for cost saving, beginning in 2023. This allows us to be at the table when considering how to address affordability—with mutual agreement required to implement any cost-saving measure.

Joint Affordability Task Force: In accordance with the original vision of partnership, we will work together to find ways to reduce overall costs—with mutual agreement required to implement.

Patient and worker safety: The subcommittee on patient and worker safety reached consensus on adding language to the National Agreement on Just Culture, a recognition program for reporting of near misses, identifying and developing a communication process for emergency preparedness, and updating prevention of workplace violence. The group also recommended creation of a National Health, Safety and Well-Being Committee to ensure that Just Culture and Psychological Safety are integrated into current work streams.

Better, faster resolution of disputes: Resolving disputes in a timely manner has been a partnership challenge. The new language replaces several processes with a single, improved process to resolve disputes faster with improved partnership and fact-finding. There will be guidelines and training for all parties.

What’s next: The tentative agreements will be reviewed at a Bargaining Delegate Conference this week, then they will go to every Local Union for review and approval by their membership in accordance with local union procedures.

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