July 29, 2019

Statement on strike vote by SEIU-UHW, other unions

Statement by Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president, Human Resources, Kaiser Permanente.

The decision by SEIU-UHW leadership, on behalf of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, to push for a divisive strike authorization vote in July and August — when most of their contracts do not expire until October — is counterproductive and simply a bullying tactic designed to pressure us during the contract bargaining process. 

Kaiser Permanente is committed to providing our staff with highly competitive salaries and wages while also fulfilling our mission to make health care more affordable. The Coalition has been a part of our labor management partnership for more than 20 years and certainly knows this to be true.

Unfortunately, for more than 2 years, the leadership of SEIU-UHW has been waging a power play within the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and demanding control. This behavior ultimately caused a split in the Coalition and two-thirds of the unions withdrew from the group last year, eventually forming the Alliance of Health Care Unions. Kaiser Permanente bargained with and reached agreement with the Alliance last fall. 

Today, led by SEIU-UHW leadership, the Coalition is demanding a contract that is superior to the one reached with the Alliance and all our other contracts. The Coalition’s proposal would increase our wages on average 32% above the market over the next 5 years, adding a billion dollars to our labor costs. At a time when we are working hard to keep our care affordable, the Coalition’s demands are not fair to our members and the communities we serve. Coalition-represented employees are already compensated 23% above market rates — we pay well, and we have markets where our wage rates are challenging our ability to be affordable.    

To put this in perspective:

  • Housekeeping Staff: Housekeeping staff in our Southern California Region are currently paid nearly $44,000 annually, which is 34% above the local market. The union demand would bring the annual salary of housekeeping staff to over $55,000, which is 47% above the local market.
  • Pharmacy Technicians: Pharmacy technicians in our Colorado Region are currently paid over $51,000 annually, which is 23% above the local market. The union demand would bring the annual salary of pharmacy technicians to over $65,000, which is 35% above the local market.

Kaiser Permanente has a long history of partnering with labor. We remain committed to being competitive in our wages and benefits as well as to leading affordability in health care, continuing to transform care delivery and service, and returning value to our members and customers. 

Today, Kaiser Permanente has contracts with more than 56 unions, and we’ve worked collaboratively with most from the very beginning. The proposals we have extended to the Coalition are consistent with our most recent contract agreements. In fact, over the past year or so we have reached agreement with 2 dozen different unions, including the California Nurses Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers, United Steelworkers of America, and many others. These unions understand our commitment to provide highly competitive wages and benefits and also to lead in making health care more affordable.

In the end, the bargaining table is the place to work through an agreement, not through the reputation-damaging corporate campaign SEIU-UHW has waged against Kaiser Permanente.