Kaiser Permanente to Renew Talks With Unions Representing 84,000 Workers

Published : Monday, April 1, 2019 | 4:32 AM

Kaiser Permanente's Southern California regional offices at the corner of Corson Street and North Robles Avenue are shown above. Image courtesy Google

A coalition of unions representing some 84,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in seven states said the healthcare provider has agreed to return to negotiations April 17.

Kaiser’s Southern California regional offices are located along North Los Robles Avenue in Pasadena, and the company is building its School of Medicine here on Green Street.

The labor talks will take place in Oakland where the company also has corporate offices.

Workers are currently laboring under terms of the old contract which expired in the summer of 2018.

The company has been negotiating with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions since 1997.

In 2018, a schism developed in the coalition. Twenty-one of its 34 member unions broke away to form the Alliance of Health Care Unions and negotiate a contract with Kaiser that was anathema to the unions it left behind.

In March 2018, Kaiser walked away from contract talks with the Coalition. During meetings, the ensuing summer, to get things rolling again, the company proposed an alteration to the partnership framework under which the contracts are negotiated.

Specifically, it proposed a “conduct provision” precluding Kaiser employees from participating in sympathy strikes, committing conduct that jeopardized the company’s tax-exempt status, or engaging in corporate campaigns.

The union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which, in turn, ruled that Kaiser had not provided ample notice that it no longer recognized the coalition as bargaining agent.

Further, the NLRB said, with its conduct provision Kaiser, “had failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the Coalition.”

Kaiser will argue its appeal before an administrative law judge April 22, but has dropped the conduct provision demand in the meantime. Talks are back on.

“We’re thankful to have resolved this impasse and look forward to resuming negotiations and ultimately securing a new national agreement for Kaiser workers,” said Tamara Rubyn, the Coalition’s secretary-treasurer.

Among the unions making up the Coalition are: Service Employees International Union -United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW), which has 55,000 members in California alone; SEIU Local 49 (Oregon and southern Washington); OPEIU Local 20 Los Angeles, the already-mentioned OPEIU Local 30, and SEIU Local 121 (registered nurses).

Defections notwithstanding, the Coalition represents 84,000 members at Kaiser facilities across the country.

How many of those are in Pasadena could not be determined, but it would not be too few.

Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 30, which represents just the office workers at Kaiser in Pasadena, has 4,000 members. Locals representing physicians, nurses, technicians, and janitors would more than likely have even larger rank-and-file memberships.

“We look forward to the interest-based bargaining process that has served Kaiser Permanente and our labor partners so well in the past,” said the company’s Vice President of Communications, John Nelson, “and to the successful completion of a new agreement with the remaining coalition unions that benefits our employees and members.”

Said Rubyn: “We’re going back to the table to preserve the great benefits and working conditions that the members have and make sure that all the components of the national agreement are either improved upon or looked at in ways that they can improve the quality and patient care of those who come for services at Kaiser.”

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