Labor unions representing at least 27,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in California and Oregon are readying their memberships to vote on whether they will go on strike, union leaders said. The votes come as union contracts expire Thursday. Under national labor law, healthcare unions are required to give employers 10 days' notice of a strike.
The United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, which includes 24,000 registered nurses, pharmacists, rehab therapists, midwives and optometrists, will hold its vote Oct. 1 through Oct. 10. The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, which represents 3,400 healthcare workers, will start its vote Oct. 4. Both unions are part of the 21-union Alliance of Health Care Unions that represents 52,000 Kaiser workers.
"Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions are bargaining hard today," Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources at Kaiser Permanente, said in a statement. "We highly value our partnership and are doing everything we can to preserve and protect it while we work to reach an agreement."
Here are five things to know about Kaiser's union negotiations.
1. Earlier in September, UNAC/UHCP said it was pausing participation in its labor-management partnership with the integrated health system over contract negotiations. The labor management partnership is a 24-year-old agreement between the health system and its unions—now called the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and the Alliance of Health Care Unions—to jointly make decisions about patient care, access and quality.
2. The employer has offered a 1% across-the-board raise for union workers and a two-tiered pay scale that would reduce compensation for new hires compared to current employees starting in 2023, which the union does not support. The company's proposal includes wage increases for all current employees, no changes to the retirement plan and guarantees no wage cuts for existing workers, the company said.
3. OFNHP executives said Wednesday that, "As of now, there are no acceptable offers from Kaiser," and that unions in nine states are preparing for strike votes. A Kaiser spokesperson said active bargaining continued all week, including into the evening Thursday. Another bargaining date is set for next week, Kaiser said.
4. About 500 people joined OFNP for a rally at the Kaiser corporate headquarters in Portland Wednesday to campaign for safe staffing and a fair contract, labor leaders said.
"All of us, healthcare workers and the community, are speaking with one voice," said Jodi Barschow, OFNHP President and a registered nurse at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center. "We are saying it's time to settle a contract that fixes the staffing crisis, puts patients and healthcare workers first and allows us to finally come out of the pandemic stronger than when we started."
5. The health system likely narrowly avoided a strike by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions in September 2019 over contract negotiations, after agreeing to higher wages and a workforce development program.