Kaiser Permanente and a health care workers’ union reached a tentative deal on Friday, meeting the demands of higher wages and promises of increased staffing.
Nurses, doctors, optometrists, pharmacists and receptionists stood beside the union coalition in the demands for higher pay, a solution for staff shortages, protections against outsourcing and earlier notice in the case of remote workers being called to work in person. This followed the expiration of the workers’ union contract on Sept. 30.
Kaiser Permanente employees took to striking from Oct. 4 to 7.
Terry Kanakri, senior media relations specialist for Kaiser Permanente, said that all Kaiser Permanente facilities remained open and operational during the strike. Contingency plans were set in place to minimize the impact on staff and patients, according to Kanakri.
According to Michael Downer, communications lead for Kaiser Permanente, the Santa Clarita Kaiser Permanente locations’ strike activity was minor.
Across the nation, it was reported over 75,000 employees went on strike.
On Friday, multiple representatives involved in reaching the agreement held a virtual press briefing to announce the news and share some of the details of the agreement.
Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, Julie Su, the Unites States deputy secretary of labor, Greg Holmes, senior vice president of chief human resources for Kaiser Permanente, Steve Shields, senior vice president of national labor relations at Kaiser Permanente, and Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, all spoke sharing statements about the agreement.
According to the speakers, the agreement was brought to fruition over two, 36-hour bargaining sessions.
“Months ago, frontline health care workers started raising critical issues on staffing and we have spent six months together building a platform to help create long-term staffing solutions,” said Lucas, “and we hope by rejoining a labor management partnership that both Kaiser Permanente and the unions will be able to successfully partner to rebuild their workforce and to create the long-term stability in careers that really are critical to delivering safe patient care.”
The agreement was outlined by the speakers to have met the criteria for higher wages and increased staffing.
“There’s additional commitments to the lower end of the workforce, to set an industry-leading minimum wage for health care workers during this agreement, $25 an hour in the state of California, $23 an hour in other states,” said Regan. “The coalition, we revised willingly, the way people bid on positions, the way people are hired for positions … restructured all of our local and international agreements to make sure that we’re removing all barriers to being able to get people into positions and into patient-facing roles to provide care.”
“We have an interest in helping build the health care workforce of the future,” said Shields. “We have an interest in staffing to make our health care workers the most effective they can be. We have a common interest in the economic wellbeing of Kaiser Permanente employees.”
Many of the speakers said reaching this deal was a “bumpy ride,” but said they are all committed to moving forward in partnership for the future.