Approximately 1,000 Kaiser workers demand changes ahead of possible strike

About 1,000 Kaiser Permanente workers and their supporters in Oakland Monday demanded changes from their employer, a union spokesperson said.

The workers gathered at about 10 a.m. at Mosswood Park and marched to Kaiser’s medical complex at Broadway and West MacArthur Boulevard. There they demanded improved care for patients, safe staffing levels, restoration of a worker-management partnership and the protection of middle-class jobs as part of their labor agreement.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions comprises unions based in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Their national contract with Kaiser Permanente expired Sept. 30, 2018, union officials said in a weekend statement.

Union leaders contend Kaiser has not negotiated in good faith.

Spokesperson Sean Wherley of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West said Kaiser wants to outsource more and more jobs to save money. He said Kaiser is sending jobs to the lowest bidders. These workers barely get paid minimum wage and few if any benefits, Wherley said. This results in more worker turnover and less investment in Kaiser and patient care, he said. Last year, Wherley said, Kaiser made $5 billion in profits.

Actor Danny Glover was at the protest and gave encouraging words to the protesters.

In a statement issued Sunday, Arlene Peasnall, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president of human resources, said that last fall, Kaiser negotiated a contract with the Alliance of Health Care Unions that established a strong partnership that improves Kaiser’s working environment and rewards employees with highly competitive wages, benefits and advancement programs. Kaiser, Peasnall said, has contracts with 60 unions nationwide.

“[Kaiser] may have occasional disagreements, but we always work through these challenges to align on common goals that are in the best interest of our members, patients, employees and the communities we serve.”

Arlene Peasnall, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president of human resources

More than 37,000 Kaiser employees represented by Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West voted between July 31 and Aug. 11 to approve a strike in October. Similar Labor Day protests were planned for Los Angeles, Sacramento, Denver and Portland.

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