OAKLAND, Calif. – Hundreds of healthcare workers, elected officials, faith leaders and community members concerned about healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente’s increasingly profit-driven behavior will rally at 5 p.m., Tuesday, May 7 at national company headquarters, 1 Kaiser Plaza in Oakland, to urge the company to reverse its plan to eliminate jobs at several facilities across Northern California. It is part of a protest at the headquarters and will include an encampment of laid-off workers and their families, a candlelight vigil, visits from politicians and clergy, and the building of a live garden.
“It really tells you something that Kaiser is sitting on tens of billions of dollars in reserves and paying its CEO $16 million a year but then cuts good jobs that support families – it tells you Kaiser is a corporation that has stopped caring about the community,” said Phil Osmond, a Kaiser gardener for 23 years in Oakland. “Kaiser is a non-profit company, and for many years it acted that way and was part of the community. But over the past 10 years it more and more acted like a typical for-profit corporation worried only about the bottom line.”
Under the plan, 63 gardeners will lose their jobs June 7 and an outside company would oversee an entirely new workforce that is paid less and receives fewer benefits than current Kaiser employees. Nearly 100 federal, state and local elected officials in California have sent letters to Kaiser opposing the corporation’s outsourcing plans.
Although the gardeners may be eligible for other jobs within the company, many are concerned they will not find suitable positions because they pay less, are part-time or do not match their skills and experience. Supporters of the workers also have expressed concern that a majority of the affected staff are women and people of color.
The gardeners work at facilities in the following 16 cities: Antioch; Fremont; Manteca; Modesto; Oakland; Richmond; San Francisco; San Jose; San Leandro; San Rafael; Santa Clara; Santa Rosa; Stockton; Vacaville; Vallejo; and Walnut Creek.
Despite being a non-profit organization and self-described community-oriented health provider, Kaiser appears to be behaving just like any other large, for-profit corporation. It reported reserves of $31.5 billion and profits of $6.3 billion the last two years. In 2017, its CEO received a 60 percent raise to more than $16 million in annual compensation, and 35 other executives received more than $1 million annually.
All the while, because it’s a non-profit organization, Kaiser does not have to pay income taxes or property taxes—thus saving itself an estimated $1.1 billion on California and federal income taxes alone in 2017. In contrast, the savings from outsourcing the gardeners is about $1 million, meaning those jobs could easily be protected without putting even a perceptible ripple in the company’s bottom line.
More than 55,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in California are members of SEIU-UHW.
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the western United States with 95,000 members. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org