Strike avoided after health care workers reach tentative agreement with Kaiser Permanente

The strike would have impacted more than 300 hospitals and medical centers across Southern California.

City News Service
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Strike avoided: Kaiser Permanente, workers reach tentative deal
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Thousands of health care workers will stay on the job after a tentative agreement was reached with Kaiser Permanente, union representatives announced Saturday.

A tentative deal was reached Saturday between Kaiser Permanente and union leaders that will prevent a strike by thousands of nurses and other health care workers who were planning to hit the picket line Monday at Kaiser facilities across Southern California and beyond.

Kaiser and the Alliance of Health Care Unions agreed on a four-year contract covering nearly 50,000 health care employees in 22 local unions, according to union spokesman Jeff Rogers.

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

According to the union, the tentative deal includes:

  • Guaranteed across-the-board wage increases each year through 2025.
  • No reductions to family medical and dental coverage.
  • Maintaining generous retirement income benefits and employer-subsidized retiree medical.
  • Introduction of the Alliance Bonus Plan, which provides annual payouts for achieving new mutually agreed-upon objectives to address affordability.
  • Opportunities for career growth and advancement.

The two sides also agreed to form a national affordability and competitiveness task force to "find innovative ways to address issues of affordability while continuing to work together to protect high-quality patient care.''

The deal now goes to the full common issues committee, and then to union members for ratification. Voting will occur over the next several weeks.

If ratified, the agreement will have an effective date retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021.

The union canceled its strike notifications.

Roughly 21,000 members of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, including registered nurses, pharmacists, midwives, physical and occupational therapists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others, had been scheduled to begin an open-ended strike in Southern California.

They were to be joined in Southern California by about 7,400 members of United Steelworkers and by 3,400 members of Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals.

Various other Kaiser employee unions had announced plans to hold sympathy strikes with the nurses over the course of the week.

Christian Meisner, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente, said the 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. 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.''

The major point of contention in the talks was over what the union called the company's proposed two-tiered wage system, an effort by Kaiser to balance wages in some markets where the health provider claims workers are being paid far above market rates.