California labor unions sanction potential October strike by Kaiser workers

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor voted Tuesday to sanction a potential strike by 80,000 Kaiser Permanente workers who allege the healthcare giant is exercising unfair labor practices and putting profits before quality care.

Union leaders gathered at the federation’s headquarters in downtown L.A. to voice their support.

They are among more than 12 regional labor groups throughout California who have voted to support a walkout. The federation encompasses 300 unions and about 800,000 workers. As part of their support, union members will be asked not to cross picket lines as part of their usual job duties.

Eight other regional labor groups are expected to take similar action in the coming weeks.

The Kaiser employees — represented by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions — are protesting staffing shortages, wages they say are too low, job outsourcing and the high pay company executives are earning. They note that Kaiser made more than $5.2 billion in profits during the first half of 2019 and that at least 36 of its executives earn $1 million or more a year.

Labor Day protests

Tuesday’s action comes on the heels of Labor Day protests in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and Portland, Ore., where workers demonstrated against the company’s alleged failure to bargain in good faith. The turnout in L.A. included Kaiser employees and patients, as well as clergy, elected leaders and community allies.

The strike is set to begin early October if two sides fail to reach a labor agreement. It will affect more than 80,000 Kaiser workers nationwide, 66,000 of whom are based in California including 17,000 in Los Angeles County. It would be the largest walkout since 185,000 Teamsters went on strike at United Parcel Service in 1997.

Kaiser’s offer

In a statement issued Tuesday, Sept. 10, Kaiser said union leadership “has decided to use the threat of a strike as a bargaining tactic, designed to divide employees and mischaracterize Kaiser Permanente’s position, even though most of the contracts don’t expire until October.”

Kaiser’s current offer includes annual increases of 3% each year through 2022 for employees in Northern and Southern California. Kaiser and the coalition are also proposing a $40 million workforce development fund and the creation of new-hire training positions — both aimed at addressing the national shortage of healthcare workers.

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The offer preserves the existing defined pension plan along with other retirement benefits, and it includes a pharmacy incentive that encourages employees to use of mail-order prescriptions.

Kaiser contends coalition-represented workers are already compensated 23% above market rates, with some making even more.

Staffing problems

Meanwhile, staffing problems persist, according to Eric Jines, a radiologic technologist at Kaiser’s Los …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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