Updated on Oct. 14, 3 p.m.
Kaiser Permanente reached a tentative deal with the unions representing 85,000 workers to an across-the-board 21% wage increase over four years, provisions to protect workers from outsourcing and streamlined training and hiring practices to help boost staffing.
In a joint statement released Friday, the health system and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions announced a tentative agreement for a renewed national agreement, bringing the nearly seven months of contract negotiations to a conclusion.
U.S. President Joe Biden also acknowledged Su's role in securing the labor agreement.
Both sides credited the involvement of acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su who took part in the negotiations.
"This isn’t the first time Acting Secretary Su has helped essential workers and their employers reach an agreement. She continues to play an integral role helping my administration and workers across this country build an economy that works for everyone," Biden said in a statement issued by the White House. "I’m grateful to Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions for coming together in good faith to ensure these workers can continue caring for our neighbors and loved ones. Healthcare workers and support staff kept our hospitals – and our nation– going during the dark months of the pandemic. They had our backs during one of our nation’s toughest times. We must continue to have theirs."
The tentative agreement now goes to the more than 85,000 Kaiser Permanente employees who are represented by Coalition unions for ratification. The ratification process will begin October 18. Once ratified, the agreement will have an effective date of October 1, 2023.
The tentative agreement establishes new minimum wages over three years for Coalition-represented employees that will reach $25 per hour in California and $23 per hour in other states where Kaiser Permanente operates. The tentative agreement also provides guaranteed across-the-board wage increases totaling 21% over four years.
The raises break down to 6% in October 2023, 5% in October 2024, 5% in October 2025, 5% in October 2026, according to the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. It represents the largest raise package in the history of the Kaiser Labor/management partnership, the union organization said in a statement.
The deal also includes a $1,500 ratification bonus for all workers, the union said.
The agreement, as proposed, also enhances employees’ performance sharing program plan (PSP) with minimum payout opportunities and a substantial maximum payout opportunity. And, the deal increases investments in professional development and job training, and includes other initiatives to help address the staffing crisis in healthcare, according to a joint statement.
According to the union, workers' 2023 PSP, to be paid out in March 2024, will have a guaranteed minimum of $1,500 (pro-rated for part time) with potentially more based on goals.
PSP payouts going forward were negotiated as follows: Kaiser fails to meet financial goals, members will be paid $300 per each labor goal met (up to $1,200 for four labor goals); if Kaiser meets financial goals, members will be paid $700 per each labor goal met (total potential payout of $2,800) and if Kaiser strongly exceeds financial goals, members will be paid $950 per each labor goal met (total potential payout of $3,750). —Senior Editor Heather Landi contributed to this reporting
Updated on Oct. 13, 10:00 a.m.
Kaiser Permanente reached a tentative deal with the unions representing 75,000 workers, following “the largest healthcare worker strike in U.S. history."
"The frontline healthcare workers of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions are excited to have reached a tentative agreement with Kaiser Permanente. We are thankful for the instrumental support of Acting US Labor Secretary Julie Su," the organization posted on the X app (formerly Twitter).
Kaiser Permanente also posted on social media Friday that a tentative labor agreement with frontline healthcare workers had been reached, averting another strike by employees over pay and staffing levels. The health system said it would issue a full announcement soon.
Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers walked off the job Oct. 4 in a three-day labor demonstration. The strike included “hundreds” workers across different job titles ranging from licensed vocational nurses to technicians to housekeepers, according to the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, a body of worker unions with 85,000 total members.
Earlier this week, the union coalition warned the health system that "another significant work action by their employees could be possible" if the parties can't reach an accord. That follow-up strike would begin at 6:00 a.m. on Nov. 1 and run through the same time on Nov. 8, the 85,000-worker group said.
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day Friday. —Senior Editor Heather Landi contributed to this reporting
Updated on Oct. 10, 10:00 a.m.
The “the largest healthcare worker strike in U.S. history" may have wrapped on Saturday, but no contract agreement between Kaiser Permanente and tens of thousands of its workers has unions warning of more potential demonstrations.
In a statement, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said it served the large health system official notice that "another significant work action by their employees could be possible" if the parties can't reach an accord. That follow-up strike would begin at 6:00 a.m. on Nov. 1 and run through the same time on Nov. 8, the 85,000-worker group said.
“For months, Kaiser executives failed to listen to the feedback from frontline healthcare workers about the need for executives to follow the law in negotiations and about the impacts that the Kaiser short staffing is having on patients,” Caroline Lucas, executive director of the coalition, said in a Monday afternoon statement. “This week, Kaiser executives will have another opportunity to listen to frontline staff, to follow the law in formal discussions, and to begin investing in ways that will solve the Kaiser short staffing crisis.”
The group said it chose November for its next potential demonstration due to the Oct. 31 expiration date of the labor contract covering Kaiser's Seattle workers. Should that come to pass, it would add another 3,000 workers to the 75,000-person tally.
Waiting until November would also "give Kaiser executives mor time to organize themselves around viable proposals," the unions said.
Bargaining sessions are scheduled to resume on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13.
More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers walked off the job Wednesday in a labor demonstration that organizers are describing as “the largest healthcare worker strike in U.S. history.”
The three-day demonstration began at 6:00 a.m. PT across three states and 6:00 a.m. MT in Colorado, while a single-day strike for certain workers in Kaiser’s mid-Atlantic region (Virginia and Washington, D.C.) began at 6 a.m. ET.
Participating workers hold “hundreds” of different job titles ranging from licensed vocational nurses to technicians to housekeepers, according to the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, a body of worker unions with 85,000 total members.
The walk-off is a culmination of failed contract bargaining sessions between the unions and the large nonprofit provider and insurer. The prior contract expired Sept. 30 following a summer of picketing and criticism from the unions, which have accused management of understaffing and uncompetitive pay commitments.
"Kaiser executives are refusing to listen to us and are bargaining in bad faith over the solutions we need to end the Kaiser short-staffing crisis," Jessica Cruz, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center, said in a statement from the coalition. "I see my patients’ frustrations when I have to rush them and hurry on to my next patient. That’s not the care I want to give. We’re burning ourselves out trying to do the jobs of two or three people, and our patients suffer when they can't get the care they need due to Kaiser's short-staffing."
Statements from Kaiser Permanente in the run-up to the strike outlined “progress” in bargaining meetings.
“A strike ... is certainly not justified,” the organization said. “Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens Kaiser Permanente as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access.”
The coalition last negotiated a contract with Kaiser in 2019, a deal that involved a $130 million commitment by Kaiser to fund a workforce development program, raises ranging from 2% to 3% per year and a ban on subcontracting.
The new round comes after COVID-19 battered health systems and their workers alike. The unions said they want any potential contract to address short staffing and starting pay for certain positions “that is not even competitive with fast food and retail chains” in certain Kaiser markets. Both issues are leading to worse quality of and access to care for patients, the unions said.
Kaiser said its current offer includes across-the-board wage increases from 12.5% to 16% over four years; a proposed $21 minimum wage in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.; and a $23 minimum wage in California. Those minimums would also increase over each year of the four-year contract.
Kaiser has previously critiqued the unions for seeking a single $25 minimum wage spanning each state, which the system countered as unrealistic for markets with lower wages.
The unions have been quick to highlight Kaiser’s nearly $3.3 billion in six-month net income. Though the large nonprofit has claimed over $21 billion in profit over the past five years and has plans to expand, it logged a $1.3 billion operating loss and net loss of almost $4.5 billion in 2022 due to tough investments and “a highly competitive labor market.”
Kaiser stressed in its Monday evening statement that its hospitals and emergency departments will remain open during any strike and “in some cases” will be supported by contingent workers.
“Our plans ensure that the urgent needs of our members and patients are the top priority,” the system said. “We will contact members affected by any necessary changes in our services during this strike,” which could include rescheduling nonemergency and elective services “in some locations out of an abundance of caution.”
This week's strike comes two years after Kaiser Permanente narrowly avoided a 32,000-person contract strike from another major collection of 21 Kaiser Permanente unions, the Alliance of Health Care Unions.