The second Kaiser National Bargaining Session in Los Angeles concluded today, leaving your ESC national bargaining team feeling cautiously optimistic, but prepared for an uphill battle ahead. Both union leaders and management have committed to a partnership during the negotiation process. However, there are still many unanswered questions. This week, we continued talks regarding the staffing crisis and discussed Kaiser’s finances. We look forward to continued conversations with Kaiser to ensure our voices are heard and concerns are addressed.
Kaiser Company & Employee Finances
Most of the second day was on finances: Kaiser’s finances, the finances of the workforce in a time of unprecedented inflation, and the finances of our pension fund.
KP Finances. Kaiser CFO Kathy Lancaster and Senior VP Tom Curtin presented the challenges they see in growing the membership, getting proper reimbursement for care, and managing rising expenses. SEIU-UHW President, Dave Regan, presented a counter perspective that emphasized Kaiser’s incredibly strong financial position when viewed over the last five years and highlighted Kaiser’s astounding investment income and management costs, spiraling executive compensation, and skyrocketing payments to expensive outside contractors. Even though Kaiser lost money in 2022, it was an outlier, not the trend. Kaiser reported more than $21 billion in profit over the last five years, and their net worth doubled between 2018 and 2022 to $58.9B. Kaiser isn’t a company that’s struggling.
Employee finances. We also wanted to ensure that Kaiser management understood that they are not the only ones who have to manage a budget. Every Kaiser worker is struggling to adjust their family budget to the rising costs of living. Shamefully, Kaiser employs thousands of workers across the country who don’t make a $25/hr living wage. Check out our members’ stories in this video we shared in bargaining.
Pension fund. Some good news that came out of this dialogue was the reporting that the KP pension plan is fully funded for the first time in decades. We also asked for and received a commitment from KP leaders for greater transparency around both our pension fund and our 401K investments.
Why the Geisinger Health Acquisition and the Creation of Risant Matters
We called Kaiser out on the acquisition they announced last month of a Pennsylvania medical group called Geisinger Health and the creation of Risant, a new healthcare company. With the announcement, Kaiser not only failed to discuss this plan with its unions, but we learned that Kaiser’s top leaders at the Medical Group weren’t even involved in the deal!
What’s most frustrating about this is that they’re spending billions buying up companies while saying they can’t afford to raise our wages enough to keep up with inflation.
Kaiser’s behavior around the Geisinger acquisition has raised critical questions:
Is Kaiser going to use California rate increases to pay for the acquisition?
Does it plan to start growing a non-union, non-partnership company within Kaiser that will create pressure to lower the standards of living for all of us?
If they didn’t talk to their labor partners or even their doctors, what is it they’re trying to hide?
No matter what comes out of the rest of bargaining this round, Coalition union members must be ready to act until we get the contract and respect we deserve. If Kaiser thinks this is a partnership, we need to prove them wrong.
Coalition Addressing the Staffing Crisis
The session began with a report back from the labor-management task force working on getting 10,000 new hires into Coalition vacancies by the end of the year. A timeline for meetings and subgroups was created to address internal delays in the bidding and hiring system, market limitations for harder-to-fill classifications, collaboration about high-volume hiring opportunities, and providing union leaders in the facilities input into core staffing modules.
Coalition Bargaining Team Knows What We Need to Solve the Staffing Crisis
Our bargaining team is fully committed to solving the staffing crisis by raising healthcare worker pay, including a $25/hr minimum, fixing our broken hiring process, and making a massive investment in education and training.
Our next National Bargaining will be from June 22-24. Stay tuned for more updates!
We are United For All!