By Sean Wherley, Media Relations Specialist, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West
The federal government recently indicted healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente for refusing to negotiate a contract affecting 85,000 employees in seven states and the District of Columbia, and for wrongly tying those negotiations to a ban on political activity against the company.
“The workers who have helped make this company so successful over the years now feel that their concerns are validated,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. “No longer can Kaiser Permanente claim it was trying to do right by its employees and patients by holding up bargaining and trying to stop workers from speaking out.”
Kaiser Permanente has until Jan. 11 to respond to the decision, and a legal hearing will begin March 19 in Oakland, according to the indictment released Dec. 28 by the National Labor Relations Board.
Kaiser Permanente employees filed a complaint in May 2018 because the company repeatedly canceled contract negotiations with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which comprises 11 labor unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The coalition’s national agreement with Kaiser Permanente expired Sept. 30, 2018. The company had previously negotiated contracts with the coalition since 1997.
Last November, Kaiser Permanente settled a contract with a different group of labor unions that prohibits those unions from taking action against the company, whether through ballot initiatives, legislation or other public campaigns. Kaiser tried to apply the same condition to bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions; however, the Dec. 28 indictment blocks that effort.
Kaiser Permanente’s refusal to bargain comes in the midst of a plan to outsource jobs to “save” money, despite the corporation reporting reserves of $30 billion and profits of $3.8 billion in 2017. In addition, the Kaiser CEO is paid more than $10 million annually, and 30 executives are paid more than $1 million a year.