July 31, 2019

Setting the record straight on SEIU-UHW’s false claims

We are disappointed that some union leaders are choosing to make false allegations and pursue an adversarial, destructive approach as part of their bargaining strategy.

Kaiser Permanente started bargaining with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions in mid-April. We believe that by working together in partnership with the unions that represent our employees, we will continue to achieve the best results for our members, patients, and the communities who depend on Kaiser Permanente to provide high-quality, affordable health care — and help to keep Kaiser Permanente a great place to work for all. We reiterate our pledge to bargain in good faith and our commitment to reach fair and equitable agreements that provide our employees with excellent, market-competitive benefits and wages.

We are disappointed that some union leaders are choosing to make false allegations and pursue an adversarial, destructive approach as part of their bargaining strategy.

Here are responses to some of the many false claims by SEIU-UHW’s leadership:


CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente is shortchanging Medicaid members. Fact: Since 2013, our Medicaid enrollment has more than doubled, from 455,000 to over 918,000. That’s a 102% increase. In context, our overall enrollment over the same period rose by 30%. We view Medicaid as critical to achieving our mission of providing care to the communities we serve. Kaiser Permanente is an integrated system of health care and coverage, and we go well beyond providing charity care in our emergency departments and inpatient areas. We work to provide the uninsured and underinsured with a medical "home" where they can get continuity of care and comprehensive treatments.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente has failed to defend the ACA and Medicaid. Fact: Kaiser Permanente has been a consistent and vocal advocate of extending the expansion of affordable coverage ushered into place by the ACA. We were also strong advocates of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s actions to stabilize the California market through implementation of a new state mandate, expanding premium assistance and extending Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented residents up to age 26. Additionally, we’ve expanded our Medicaid membership to now cover nearly a million people.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente wants to cut wages. Fact: We are committed to providing our employees with excellent wages and benefits wherever they work, and our offer to the Coalition includes wage increases that will keep our employees among the best compensated in health care (the average salary of Coalition-represented employees is 23% higher than the market average). We are proud that Kaiser Permanente is regularly recognized as a best place to work, providing competitive wages and benefits.

As examples, in the Bay Area the average employee salary is 7% higher than the competitive market, in the Mid-Atlantic it’s 20%, in Los Angeles it’s 35%, and in San Diego it’s 45%. Laboratory technicians in the Northwest earn an average salary that is 23% above the market, licensed vocational/practical nurses in the Mid-Atlantic States are an average of 32% above market, and a Southern California medical assistant average salary is 49% above.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente is slashing jobs and on an outsourcing "binge." Fact: The truth is Kaiser Permanente is growing and adding jobs overall. For example, as one of the largest private employers in California with more than 149,000 employees and 16,000 physicians, we have added more than 13,000 jobs in the state since 2015. We have more than 12,000 open staff positions and will continue to add many kinds of jobs, including blue collar jobs. The number of our employees represented by SEIU-UHW has grown by more than 8,000 over the same period
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente refuses to negotiate a new National Agreement. Fact: This is wrong. Kaiser Permanente has unequivocally stated that we will meet all our bargaining obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, and we did everything possible to be constructive and make progress on restoring negotiations through the partnership model in place.

We have been bargaining in good faith for months. At the end of the most recent bargaining sessions, the parties agreed that management and union leaders will continue talking and working toward a mutually beneficial agreement.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente wants to take away union members’ right to free speech. Fact: Kaiser Permanente has proposed that unions who choose to engage in partnership, and therefore gain the benefits of our Labor Management Partnership, mutually agree, along with Kaiser Permanente, not to pursue, sponsor or support legislation or ballot initiatives that are specifically targeted at and intended to harm another member of the partnership. This proposed agreement does not apply to and does not in any way affect the free speech or advocacy rights of our employees.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente has misplaced priorities, as it’s spending $900 million on a new headquarters and nearly $300 million on a sports sponsorship. Fact: The new headquarters building will ultimately pay for itself. From year one, we will realize an annual savings of at least $60 million by consolidating our Oakland-based workforce into one building. We can reinvest the savings brought by the new building to advance our mission of providing high-quality, affordable care for our members and communities. Our community investment with the Golden State Warriors covers a 20-year period and represents the total potential cost of a long-term community health and business engagement. A more accurate estimation of this community investment is about $2.5 million a year.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente puts profits before people.

Fact: Our priority is always the health and safety of our patients, members, and employees. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals is a nonprofit organization. We spend 100% of our revenue to deliver on our mission. About 97% of our revenue is spent directly on providing care and coverage to our more than 12 million members and to improve the health of our communities. The remainder — around 3% — is our margin, which is invested back into the organization so we can continue to care for our members and patients.

CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente raises rates and makes record profits while sitting on a $35 billion surplus and plays by a different set of rules when it comes to transparency.

Fact: Every health plan has raised rates in the individual market due to the removal of the individual mandate. Kaiser Permanente’s group rate increases, however, are among the lowest. That’s why we supported California state efforts to reinstate an individual mandate.

As a nonprofit organization, all our revenues go into providing high-quality, affordable health care and to improving the health of our members and the communities we serve. We are all here for our patients — not to earn a profit or pay shareholders. Kaiser Permanente, like other health plans, maintains financial reserves to cover our obligations if something unexpected were to occur or if regular business was interrupted. Further, our reserves are more than a traditional health plan because we are more than a health plan. Our reserves support our hospitals, medical offices, employee benefits (including pensions), and other elements of our integrated model of care that other health plans do not have.

CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente pays its executives exorbitant salaries. Fact: Kaiser Permanente sets senior management compensation levels that allow us to successfully attract and retain the leadership we need to deliver affordable, high-quality health care to our members and improve the health of the communities we serve. Our goal is to provide a reasonable and competitive compensation program, relative to organizational size and complexity.

Kaiser Permanente is the largest, most comprehensive nonprofit health care organization in the nation, one that consists of a large and complex national health plan and one of the nation's largest medical-service delivery organizations. We compete for talent on a national level with for-profit and not-for-profit health plans and hospital organizations. The senior management at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals have unique leadership positions, in that they have two roles: overseeing a major health plan with more than 12 million members as well as managing 701 medical offices, 39 hospitals, and other facilities and a total care delivery system in multiple states. This combination makes Kaiser Permanente the largest vertically integrated health plan in the country and the largest and most complex health care nonprofit organization.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente has walked away from the Labor Management Partnership. Fact: We remain deeply committed to working together with Coalition leadership to restore a successful Labor Management Partnership that supports our mission of delivering high-quality, affordable care to our members and improving the health of the communities we serve. Yet, we do expect partners to behave in ways that are not harmful to each other. Last year one of the Coalition unions filed a ballot initiative in California that threatened to cause great harm to our organization. In doing so, the union’s leadership violated both the spirit and the actual terms of the agreements that set up our valued Labor Management Partnership.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente isn’t listening to what the unions are saying. Fact: The truth is the Kaiser Permanente bargaining team, which includes leaders and managers, has listened intently to union concerns and made several offers that reflect this. They’ve found a great deal of common ground around several major issues, including workforce planning, revitalizing employee and manager training and education, improving performance outcomes, strengthening issue resolution and problem-solving processes, eliminating workplace injuries and collaborative work to forecast the care needs of our patients in the future.

We also believe we have a framework for resolving all the negotiations successfully, which will address those areas still open and will ensure that Kaiser Permanente continues to provide market-competitive wages and benefits.
CLAIM: Kaiser Permanente is unprepared for a strike. Fact: This is not true. Kaiser Permanente has contingency plans in the event of a work stoppage to continue providing safe and high-quality health care and service.

While we support union members’ rights, we hope any employees called by union leaders to walk out will consider the potential impact to patients and remain on the job.
CLAIM: There definitely will be a strike. Fact: Strike threats are often a negotiating tactic to put pressure on bargaining, and don’t necessarily mean there will be a walkout.

At this time, no strike has been officially called, and union leaders and management are continuing to talk and work toward a mutually beneficial agreement.
CLAIM: Employees are required to strike. Fact: Employees cannot be forced to participate in a strike. It is a personal decision up to each employee.

We support our employees’ right to make decisions about whether or not to strike and will strictly enforce our policies that prohibit any coercion or retaliation.
CLAIM: Employees won’t lose pay if they participate in a strike. Fact: If employees don’t report to work because they are participating in a strike, they will not be paid. Depending on the length of a strike, this can cost an employee a significant percentage of their salary for every day they stay out — potentially wiping out any salary increases that could be gained in bargaining.
CLAIM: Employees won’t be paid for working during a strike. Fact: If employees come to work, they will be paid.