East County News Service
October 17, 2023 (Los Angeles) -- More than 85,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers reached a historic tentative agreement on Oct.13 for a new contract that will substantially raise wages, bolster patient safety and make critical investments in the healthcare workforce at hundreds of Kaiser facilities across California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
The deal was reached on the heels of Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su traveling back to her home state of California to engage in the most recent talks, successfully helping the sides bridge the gap on key lingering issues.
From October 4 to Saturday, October 7, 75,000 Kaiser healthcare workers held an unfair labor practice strike. The actions, led by workers across multiple states and in Washington, D.C., constituted the largest strike of healthcare workers in U.S. history.
“This deal is life-changing for frontline healthcare workers like me, and life-saving for our patients,” said Yvonne Esquivel, a pediatric medical assistant at Kaiser Permanente in Gilroy, California. “Thousands of Kaiser healthcare workers fought hard for this new agreement, and now we will finally have the resources we need to do the job we love and keep our patients safe.”
“We are excited to have reached a tentative agreement with the frontline health care workers of the @UnionCoalition,” Kaiser Permanente said on X (formerly Twitter). The company has acknowledged staffing shortages in the healthcare sector resulting from “burnout” following the pandemic, which resulted in over 5 million medical workers leaving their jobs. The unions had accused Kaiser of outsourcing healthcare duties to third-party vendors and subcontractors
The landmark deal follows months of advocacy from thousands of frontline healthcare workers.
The tentative agreement includes:
Addressing the staffing crisis by raising wages by 21% over four years to better retain current healthcare workers
Establishing a new healthcare worker minimum wage – $25/hr in California and $23/hr in other states where Kaiser Permanente operates
Protective terms around subcontracting and outsourcing, which will keep experienced healthcare workers in jobs and provide strong continuity of care for patients
A wide variety of initiatives to invest in the workforce and address the staffing crisis, including streamlining hiring practices, increased training and education funding, mass hiring events, and a commitment to upskill existing workers and invest in the training of future healthcare workers.
“Millions of Americans are safer today because tens of thousands of dedicated healthcare workers fought for and won the critical resources they need and that patients need,” said Caroline Lucas, Executive Director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. “This historic agreement will set a higher standard for the healthcare industry nationwide.”
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions represents 85,000 Kaiser healthcare workers in seven states and the District of Columbia. In April, the Coalition began its national bargaining process ahead of the September 30th contract expiration. The Coalition and Kaiser Permanente had last negotiated a contract in 2019, before healthcare workers found themselves on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic that has worsened working conditions and exacerbated a healthcare staffing crisis.
Frontline healthcare workers in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions are expected to begin voting to ratify the agreement starting October 18.