Oct 16, 2023 - Health

Bay Area's striking Kaiser workers to decide on new tentative deal

Photo of Kaiser workers holding bullhorns and signs that say "Respect and value health care workers" during a strike

Striking Kaiser Permanente workers march in front of the company's medical center in San Francisco on Oct. 4. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Union leaders representing tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers said Friday that they'd reached a tentative labor agreement with the health system.

Why it matters: The tentative deal averts another strike by Kaiser workers; their three-day work stoppage this month was the largest ever in the U.S. health care industry.

Details: Under the new agreement, Oakland-headquartered Kaiser Permanente will offer across-the-board wage increases totaling 21% over four years and establish a $25/hour minimum wage in California over three years for coalition-represented employees, among other things.

  • Both the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and the company thanked acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su for her involvement in reaching the tentative agreement.
  • President Biden also lauded the agreement in a statement highlighting the efficacy of collective bargaining.

Catch up quick: About 75,000 employees at one of the nation's leading nonprofit health care systems went on strike in five states and Washington, D.C., from Oct. 4-6.

  • That included roughly 19,000 workers who joined the picket line at Kaiser medical centers across the Bay Area, including San Francisco, San José and Oakland.
  • The strike included professionals across fields, including nurses, radiographers, ultrasound sonographers, home health aides and pharmacists.
  • The Department of Labor said that Su, who met with Kaiser leaders and the coalition in California, encouraged the parties to "reach a fair contract for critical frontline workers."

State of play: The union coalition was seeking protections against a widespread staffing shortage that it said creates unsafe conditions for patients.

  • The staffing levels "can lead to dangerously long wait times, mistaken diagnosis and neglect," the coalition said in an earlier statement.
  • It also said it would only accept a "unified" wage across all of Kaiser's regions, which includes eight states and D.C.

Of note: Another potential work stoppage, on the unions' radar from Nov. 1-8, is now likely avoided with a new contract.

What's next: Over 85,000 Kaiser union-represented employees will decide whether to ratify the agreement. That process will kick off Wednesday, the company said.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that radiographers, not radiologists, were included in the strike.


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