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Kaiser Permanente workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize strike with 93% YES votes

UNITEHERE! Local 5

Press Release for October 20, 2021

Media Contact:

Bryant de Venecia

Cell Phone: (808) 546-0024

[email protected]

Kaiser Permanente workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize strike with 93% YES votes

 

(Hawaii) – Workers across the country are saying “enough is enough!” Nearly 2,000 UNITE HERE Local 5 members at Kaiser Permanente join 40,000 health care workers across the nation who are fired up—voting to authorize a strike with 93% YES votes.

 

After a year of negotiations, Kaiser Permanente did not move on most of the union’s proposal, instead offered a measly 1% pay increase across the board and an insulting two-tier wage system that would threaten to cut 26-33% of wages for future hires. The company is also ignoring the staffing concerns that pervade all Kaiser Permanente facilities across the nation. UNITE HERE Local 5 and the Alliance of Healthcare Unions maintain that a two-tier wage proposal would exacerbate the already-existing crisis in staffing and worker shortages. Health care workers are reporting exhaustion and burn-out as they continue to provide patient care while COVID-19 surges.

 

Hollie Sili, an ER Tech at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua shared, “They called us “heroes” throughout this pandemic; now that it’s time for a new contract, the company is telling us we’re only worth a 1% increase. This is insulting to all health care workers considering how much we have sacrificed. Kaiser is saying “don’t walk away from your patients.” I’m not walking away from anyone; in fact, I carry my patients with me. We’re fighting for what we deserve.”

 

Kaiser Permanente is worth over $42 billion and has amassed a fortune of $44.5 billion in cash reserves. In 2020, the company made $2.2 billion in profits, while frontline health care workers risked their lives in the pandemic and the country faced a historic economic crisis. Kaiser Permanente did so well despite COVID-19 that they rejected $500 million in federal CARES Act money to support its operations. Membership grew by 17% nationally since 2015; 5% in Hawaii alone.

 

Flor Malano, a Cardiac Monitor Technician at Kaiser Moanalua shared, ““It is egregious to have to choose between patient care and taking care of the workers who provide that care. We should do both—and our fight does that. Our goal is to be the best place to work and that will lead to the best care for our patients. We will be proud of what Kaiser becomes when we win.”

 

UNITE HERE Local 5 represents roughly 2,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente. Local 5 is a part of the Alliance of Health Care Unions, which represents over 50,000 members across hundreds of job classifications in nearly every geographic area where Kaiser Permanente has a presence. This latest strike authorization from Local 5 is an addition to 30,000 health care workers who already voted to strike against Kaiser Permanente, and 10,000 more who are voting at the end of October.

 

Local 5 represents approximately 12,000 workers throughout Hawaii who work in the hospitality, health care and food service industries and is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international union that represents over 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.unitehere5.org.

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Amid failed contract negotiations, Kaiser workers begin vote on possible strike

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – After months of failed contract negotiations, nearly 2,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente began voting Thursday on whether to authorize a strike.

Where We Stand – Local 5 Financial Secretary-Treasurer Eric Gill Letter to Kaiser Members

 

For over a year, Local 5 and our union allies have been trying to talk Kaiser out of attacking Kaiser workers.  We conducted dozens of meetings and presented volumes of research and information proving that Kaiser is just plain wrong that workers are overpaid. We’ve used all the bargaining and partnership tactics available.

Nothing has moved Kaiser off its misguided course.  Kaiser has refused to engage in meaningful talks at both the local and national levels.  They’ve wasted all the bargaining time they scheduled with us.  Bargaining broke down on the day both sides had planned to reach a settlement, and Kaiser still has not addressed any of the union proposals for the new contract.  They have not even offered a complete set of proposals of their own. Kaiser can’t even reach an agreement with us on even a simple matter like a temporary contract extension.

It is obvious that there are strong voices in Kaiser management that do not want to settle a fair contract with Local 5 and our allied unions.  Kaiser is forcing a strike.  They think they can win and that we will be forced to take a lousy contract that makes our problems on the job much worse.  They are wrong.

Union members will beat Kaiser and get a good contract.  Our patients and the rest of the public appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that health care heroes have shown during this pandemic. We have a large and powerful alliance of unions—some of America’s largest—working together to win; and our unions are also some of Kaiser’s biggest and most important customers.

Union popularity in America is at an all-time high.  A strike against Kaiser this fall will be the biggest strike American workers have conducted in years.

We are not afraid to stand up to the company.  We have the allies we need and are recruiting more.  Our patients and our communities will support us. We know how to campaign, and we know how to strike.  We know how to stay strong until we win.

We will win this fight.

Where is the recriprocity?

Kori Kim with her family

This piece was written by Local 5 member Kori Kim from Kaiser Permanente. Do you want to write for Local 5, contact us!

March 2020, Hawaii became a victim of COVID-19. Some people adapted to staying home, others transitioned to working from home, distance learning became the new normal, and parents became moderators. By early April, I was working from home full-time, and my son was on distance learning. One condition for working from home was to have childcare provided. The school expected parents to monitor their children throughout the day. Phrases such as “be flexible”, “difficult times”, “still meet standards” were used by both employers and schools.

But what about the needs of families? Were employers and schools thinking about the new situation families were working in? While employers required full work performance, and schools expected regular performance from students, what could families expect in return?

For Kaiser employees, the union was successful in getting Kaiser to provide COVID-19 benefits such as extra sick leave and Child Care Grant. These benefits were available through June 5, 2021. To be eligible, employees had to work between 20-32 hours at a Kaiser facility. But what about us, the remote workers who were told that we can’t watch our kids during work hours because we were on the clock? Why don’t we qualify?

I work in a call center; to ensure that patient privacy is still upheld means I cannot have my kid or anyone else in the same room. I set up my workstation in my home office, where I can have the privacy I need. Although I’m physically in the same house as my son, how can I provide the support he needs while meeting the requirements of the job? How is that different from someone sitting in the office or a clinic?

Kristen Eskaran, another call center representative, faced a similar situation. At one point, she had five children at home with her. She described her work from home environment as difficult and challenging. She said, “They would interrupt me during calls. They needed help with work and I couldn’t help.”

For my son, distance learning created a bigger challenge. COVID-19 affected more than just his learning; it affected his mental health. The stay-at-home orders and distance learning prevented him from seeing his friends. During the time of uncertainty, my son lost hope that he’d ever be able to return to school. Returning to school meant being able to see friends again. A person struggling with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety needs to be supported. Their small improvements should be celebrated while remembering that there is a chance for progress to regress. Through this time, I found that the school didn’t care about his mental health. They wanted a student, struggling with mental health issues, to still achieve higher standards. Why wasn’t flexibility and understanding extended to him?

As a parent, I had to step up and provide the additional support that school wasn’t providing him. Working in a call center, I didn’t have the flexibility to take that many breaks to check on my son, make sure he’s in class, make sure his laptop is connecting without issues, make sure he’s doing his work or paying attention to the teacher on Zoom. Someone had to be there to provide the care and assistance he needed. How can a parent fulfill both the needs of a child and employer when both have the same demands?

The flexibility and support that was being asked of families were not being reciprocated. When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, employers and schools started reviewing their plans for returning to campus or the office. Schools were finally bringing kids back full time. Parents would be returning to the office soon. Fast forward to August 2021, and COVID-19 is back with a vengeance. It does not discriminate, and trends have shown that it is affecting the younger population. With the uptick in cases and deaths, we face the possibility of another shutdown.

Although the government says it is the last option, a shutdown is still possible. If it does reach that point, can we expect to see the flexibility and support that schools and employers were asking from families? I’m hoping that we can avoid a shutdown. If unavoidable, however, schools and employers have an option to do things differently. This would be their second chance to do things right and fairly. My hope is that Kaiser recognizes where you perform your work shouldn’t make a difference. They should continue to provide COVID-19 benefits such as extra sick leave and Child Care Grant to all workers, including remote workers like me.  A parent is a parent, and children need to be tended to, regardless of their age. Parents working from home deserve the flexibility to care for their children while still meeting the needs of the company.

Kaiser health care workers to vote on strike following failed contract negotiations

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – After months of failed contract negotiations, nearly 2,000 health care workers at Kaiser Permanente are set to vote on whether to authorize a strike.