Kaiser Permanente resumes bargaining with thousands of healthcare workers

Kaiser Permanente resumes bargaining with thousands of healthcare workers

Photo Credits: TESSA KOGA / AGGIE

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Union resumes negotiations

Kaiser Permanente agreed to drop pre-conditions that once barred bargaining, and now, thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers are keen on resuming negotiations that began in 2018. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Union (CKPU) has been waiting since 2018 to come back to the table to nationally bargain.

Negotiations are picking up as “more than 85,000 healthcare workers across the U.S. are mobilizing as contract negotiations get under way with Kaiser Permanente, after the healthcare giant recently agreed to drop a ban on employees’ speaking out on patient care issues and engaging in political activity as a condition to start bargaining. Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Union (CKPU) workers from across the country are eager to resume contract negotiations,” according to the coalition’s press release.

Tamara R.Rubyn, the secretary-treasurer of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, explained how the coalition started.

“The Coalition started in 1997 informally about how they could avoid strikes and labor unrest,” Rubyn said. “Then the coalition was formed with multiple unions from around the country and agreed upon a plan and a charter, and the coalition was developed in 1999.”

Rubyn then spoke on the coalition’s purpose in 2018 when it wanted to bargain with Kaiser Permanente, but it was shut down.

“They walked away from the table,” Rubyn said. “We commenced national bargaining with them in 2018 and in March 2018 — they walked away from the bargaining table.”

Rubyn indicated that the CKPU’s objectives remain since 2018 — it is pushing for better conditions for its workers, and that has not changed.

“We are going into national bargaining with the same objectives and plan we had when we started in 2018 to improve the wages, working conditions and benefits packages of workers and to secure the national agreement so they had all the positions of the national agreement, which included income security and the workers’ working conditions to make Kaiser the best place to work,” Rubyn said.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente has accredited the disruptions in bargaining to how the former coalition broke apart. They are trying to combat this to maintain fairness. Kaiser Permanente’s statement noted how, “ever since the former Coalition broke apart, Kaiser Permanente has been doing everything possible to be constructive and make progress. We have already reached agreement with 21 former Coalition unions, which now have joined in a new Partnership group they have named the Alliance of Health Care Unions. We have sought to return to a true spirit of partnership with the remaining unions.”

Rubyn contends, however, that their own coalition became more robust.

“The coalition just got stronger,” Rubyn said. “The employer refused to bargain and we banded together — we formulated a strategic plan to get back to the table and we’re united and that continues.”

Rubyn emphasized how much the workers care for patients and that they deserve better conditions for the work they perform.

“The coalition of unions probably gives the best quality patient care of anywhere,” Rubyn said. “These workers take pride and accountability for working at Kaiser, and they made Kaiser what they are today. We are hoping that they are successful so that everyone can get back to their businesses to take care of patients.”

While Kaiser Permanente left the bargaining table, the company has indicated it prefers to work with the unions. There were disruptions that made bargaining difficult, but as it has lifted the ban, bargaining is up for grabs once more.

Kaiser Permanente’s statement reiterated that “as we have said in the past, our preference is to be in partnership with the unions who represent our employees, but for unions who prefer a traditional union-employer relationship to a partnership, we will continue to work fairly and constructively.”

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org