We have just learned that Kaiser management will be filing a lawsuit against ESC Local 20, alleging that our contract’s “no-strike” clause prohibited workers from engaging in the one-day sympathy strike with the Engineers, Local 39, last November 18th, and that we violated the contract by participating alongside SEIU-UHW and OPEIU Local 29 members that day. We have not heard yet if Kaiser will also file suit against SEIU-UHW or OPEIU Local 29.
We want to remind you that their allegation is simply not true; the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a union must explicitly waive the right to sympathy strike in order to have a contract prohibit it. (For more information, see Children’s Hosp. Medical v. California Nurses, 283 F.3d 1188 (9th Cir. 2002).) This settled case law is clear – general “no-strike” clauses, like those in the ESC Local 20 contracts, do not prohibit sympathy strikes.
Our attorney, Linda Shipley, is reviewing the complaint together with the Coalition of KP Unions’ counsel. Right now, we are working with the Coalition to evaluate the best legal strategy for collectively responding to this attack on ESC members, and we will keep everyone informed on our next steps. The other unions of the Coalition are standing in solidarity to support us against this attack.
After Kaiser’s threats against workers who planned to participate in the sympathy strike last year, we anticipated they may attempt to file a frivolous lawsuit. While we are not shocked by their actions, we are deeply concerned and saddened that management would choose to harass and intimidate workers when we are facing yet another COVID-19 outbreak. It is disgraceful that, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the same company that proudly touts the Labor-Management Partnership would engage in behavior straight out of the union buster’s playbook.
As we prepare for bargaining in 2023, we may face more intimidation tactics like this one. It is critical that we remain united, not only as healthcare professionals represented by ESC Local 20, but as union sisters and brothers throughout Kaiser Permanente. The fact of the matter is we engaged in legally protected concerted activity that day, and we will explore every legal avenue to protect workers from this and all future fruitless attacks on our rights. We are deeply appreciative of the solidarity of our Coalition sisters and brothers, and we know that we will prevail against this anti-worker lawsuit.
If you have any further questions, please contact your Union Representative, who you can find using the “Find Your Representative” feature on ifpte20.org.
Connie Savoy, MPU President and VP for MPU on the Executive Board
Deb Deveno, Optometry Unit President
Joan Mah, VP for Optometry Unit on the Executive Board