FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 30, 2021
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California’s Top Two Legislative Leaders Come Out Against Kaiser Permanente’s Two-Tier Wage Proposal as Momentum Builds for Massive Nationwide Strike
CA Senate and Assembly Leaders Toni Atkins and Anthony Rendon Pen Letter to KP CEO Greg Adams Saying Two-Tier Would Create Workplace Division and High Turnover
SACRAMENTO – “Installing a two-tiered wage system would…likely create workplace divisions that would contribute to higher turnover rates and make it more difficult to recruit and retain skilled health professionals,” reads a letter sent from Toni G. Atkins, Senate President Pro Tempore and Anthony Rendon, Speaker of the Assembly—California’s top two legislative leaders—to Greg Adams, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente Hospitals and Health Plan, Inc., dated October 29, 2021
The letter comes as momentum builds for a strike among more than 40,000 unionized Kaiser Permanente health care workers nationwide, from Hawaii to Washington, D.C, from northern to southern California, from Oregon to Georgia to Colorado. New strike authorization votes roll in almost daily among the 21 unions in the Alliance of Health Care Unions bargaining a national agreement with Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser’s proposal to institute wage cuts from 26% to 39% for incoming workers beginning in 2023 remains a major flashpoint.
“We are very much concerned with Kaiser’s demands to establish a two-tier wage structure for new employees,” the letter from CA legislative leaders Atkins and Rendon says. “We understand this issue had been the primary reason these negotiations have stalled during a period when good labor and management relations are critical to address the increase demand for quality health care services throughout California. Installing a two-tiered hiring and wage system would undermine this relationship.”
The letter begins by praising the commitment of health care workers during the pandemic: “The pandemic has proven the value and resiliency of our health care delivery systems and the brave efforts of our nurses and health care providers as they endeavor to save lives, protect our communities, and help reopen schools and businesses.”
Just this Saturday more than 2,000 nurses, pharmacists, therapists, technicians and other health care workers gathered along with family members, community, allies, national union leaders, and local elected officials for a rally in Pasadena’s Memorial Park, then marched to City Hall to receive a proclamation from Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo in gratitude for their work and sacrifices during the pandemic. The workers called on Kaiser Permanente to meet the growing staffing crisis head on and make changes to attract future generations of health care workers.
Expectation is building for UNAC/UHCP and other Alliance unions to deliver their legally-required ten-day strike notice to Kaiser Permanente, with UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan declaring at the rally:
“As of Thursday night, all of our UNAC/UHCP represented Kaiser Permanente groups have authorized a strike, as well as USW and other brothers and sisters in the Alliance of Health Care Unions. We have been bargaining with KP for over six months but now we have a full strike authorization. So, to those of you who fight to deliver extraordinary care to every patient, every time—stay with us, as this next week will define us.”
In the past three years, Kaiser Permanente grew by 591,000 new health plan members. Kaiser Permanente has more health plan members in California than its competitors: 9.2 million. KP has solid financial ratings because of the strength and diversity of its health plan membership: KP reported to Fitch Ratings that 65% of the nation’s Fortune 100 companies actually contract with Kaiser for their employees’ health care, and no single employee or employer represents more than 5% of Kaiser Permanente’s total membership. Fortune 100 companies are not going to start-ups for the level of care their employees need and expect.
More on the strike authorization votes and the issues involved:
United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) represents more than 32,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals in California and Hawaii, including optometrists; pharmacists; physical, occupational and speech therapists; case managers; nurse midwives; social workers; clinical lab scientists; physician assistants and nurse practitioners. UNAC/UHCP is affiliated with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO.