Kaiser Permanente Reaches Tentative Labor Agreement
Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions have reached a Tentative Agreement on a national, three-year collective bargaining agreement that covers nearly 48,000 unionized Kaiser Permanente health care workers in 22 union locals.
Unite Here Local 5 is one of the 22 unions covered by this national agreement. They represent approximately 1,900 Kaiser Permanente Hawaii employees, including medical assistance, food service, maintenance and environmental services workers.
“Our ability to work collaboratively with labor is a key business strategy,” said Jean Melnikoff vice president of Human Resources Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, Hawaiʻi Region. “This agreement aligns around our common goals of employee engagement and making Kaiser Permanente the best place to work and receive care.”
The negotiations, which began in May, were among the largest private-sector contract talks in the United States this year.
The deputy director and commissioners of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service attended the sessions and the tentative agreement was reached on September 23.
“The Tentative Agreement goes far beyond the traditional contract issues of wages and benefits. It includes provisions to strengthen the groundbreaking labor-management partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance, at the senior leadership level as well as the front-line level,” representatives with Kaiser Permanente said. This includes 3,600 unit-based teams — jointly led by pairs of managers and union-represented employees.
The Tentative Agreement also offers enhanced career development programs to enable Kaiser Permanente’s workforce.
“This agreement advances our ability to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve,” said Chuck Columbus, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president and chief Human Resources officer. “We’re proud of the skilled, dedicated and compassionate people of Kaiser Permanente who are devoted to our mission, our members and patients, communities and each other.”
“Our unions are committed to raising the standards of health care delivery, and the living standards of workers everywhere,” said Alliance Executive Board Chair Kathleen Theobald, executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Nurse Anesthetists Association. “We have shown that we can deliver top quality care hand in hand with industry-leading wages and benefits. This Tentative Agreement strengthens our partnership and our ability to keep delivering improvement for patients and workers.”
According to Kaiser Permanente, the agreement also reaffirms both parties’ commitment to working together under a new Labor Management Partnership agreement. The original agreement, reached in 1997, provided a joint strategy for organizational innovation and change, created an environment of continuous learning and improvement, and actively involved the workforce in decision-making.
“The new agreement builds on that, strengthening the commitment that Kaiser Permanente and the partner unions will promote each other’s mutual success,” said representatives with Kaiser Permanente.
The new Tentative Agreement includes:
• Across-the-board wage increases, which vary by region and by year.
• Enhanced processes to re-energize the Labor Management Partnership and ensure the engagement of senior leaders.
• A new labor-management trust to fund the partnership with the Alliance.
• A new educational trust to fund job training, pursuit of academic degrees, professional certification and career counseling services for employees represented by an Alliance union.
• Continued support for 3,600 front-line teams. Worker engagement and participation in these teams have helped Kaiser Permanente garner recognition for clinical quality, patient safety and member satisfaction from organizations such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
The Tentative Agreement was unanimously approved by an Alliance bargaining delegate conference September 29 and will now go to union members for ratification. The voting is expected to be complete by the end of October. A senior Kaiser Permanente leadership group must also give its formal approval. If ratified, the agreement will have a retroactive effective date of Oct. 1, 2018.
The contract will cover nearly 48,000 health care workers: 32,100 workers in California; 6,300 in Oregon and Washington; 2,100 in Colorado; 2,200 in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia; 2,800 in Georgia; and 1,900 in Hawaiʻi. The workers span job classifications from registered nurses and pharmacists to maintenance and service workers.