National Kaiser Permanente workers’ strike avoided with tentative agreement

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On Saturday, Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract, covering nearly 50,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare employees in 22 local unions, thereby avoiding a potential nationwide strike that had been set to begin this week.

The health system and union came to an agreement on payment terms, which were not disclosed.

The strike was over the health’s system’s proposals to lower wages for current employees and to reduce compensation for incoming workers — a proposal the group decried as burdensome in the midst of a healthcare staffing crisis, according to United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals members in Northern California.

Kaiser Permanente, for its part, had maintained that it was attempting to address the unaffordable costs of healthcare, saying wages and benefits accounted for half the system’s operational costs.

The agreement, the health system said, includes new staffing language meant to protect employees and patients, annual wage increases and will maintain benefits while providing career development and advancement opportunities for Alliance union-represented employees. 

When ratified, the agreement is expected to maintain Alliance union members’ wages and benefits while keeping costs affordable for patients.

Prior to the agreement, United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals members in Northern California had submitted notice that they would be the latest to strike, saying the health system refused to invest in patient care. Healthcare workers from Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and elsewhere in California had been set to strike.

Separately, healthcare workers representing SEIU-UHW’s 36,000 Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California voted to authorize a one-day sympathy strike in solidarity with Kaiser engineers from Local 39 who have been on strike for two months. The sympathy strike will start on Thursday, November 18 at 7 a.m. at various Kaiser facilities across the Bay Area, Sacramento and the Central Valley.


Among the details of the agreement are guaranteed across-the-board wage increases each year through 2025, in every region, for all Alliance-represented employees, as well as no reductions or takeaways to medical and dental coverage, with co-pays for prescriptions and office visits staying the same.

The agreement also retains retirement income benefits and employer-subsidized retiree medical coverage, and introduces the Alliance Bonus Plan, which provides annual payouts for achieving mutually agreed-to objectives to address affordability.

Additionally, the Alliance and Kaiser have agreed to form a national Affordability and Competitiveness Task Force, with specific targets to find innovative ways to address issues of affordability while protecting care quality.

The tentative agreement was approved by members of the economic subcommittee of the Alliance of Health Care Unions and will now go to union members for ratification. Voting on the agreement will occur over the next several weeks.


This isn’t the first time that union workers for Kaiser Permanente have threatened to walk out. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than 80,000 workers said they would walk out over what the unions called unfair labor practices, with SEIU Local 105 in Denver saying the health system shifted its practices to prioritize maximizing profits for executives rather than emphasizing patient care.

The union alleged that Kaiser had been automating and outsourcing union jobs, raising patient premiums, understaffing its facilities and attempting to reduce wages and benefits as it underwent union contract negotiations. 

Kaiser responded at the time by claiming the union misrepresented the bargaining proposal, and that Kaiser employees are compensated at higher than the market average and maintain excellent benefits.


“The Alliance of Health Care Unions fought to preserve a Kaiser Permanente where patients can count on excellent patient care and service,” said Hal Ruddick, executive director, Alliance of Health Care Unions. “This has guided our work for 24 years. This agreement will mean patients will continue to receive the best care, and Alliance members will have the best jobs. This contract protects our patients, provides safe staffing, and guarantees fair wages and benefits for every Alliance member.”

“This landmark agreement positions Kaiser Permanente for a successful future focused on providing high-quality healthcare that is affordable and accessible for our more than 12 million members and the communities we serve,” said Christian Meisner, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente. “It also underscores our unwavering commitment to our employees by maintaining industry-leading wages and benefits. These were challenging negotiations, but this tentative agreement demonstrates the strength of our Labor Management Partnership and the unique success it can achieve when we work together.”

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