Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Last Session of Kaiser's Partnership Bargaining Begins amidst Whispers of Cuts

Today, the partnership unions began their fourth and final bargaining session with Kaiser Permanente (June 3 to 5). 

On Friday June 5th, Kaiser and its partnering unions will announce a tentative agreement and will promptly begin issuing gobs of pre-prepared press releases, e-mails, website posts, videos, etc. detailed in a secret internal plan written last December by Kaiser's Office of Labor Management Partnership.

Then, ten days later (June 16-17), the partnership unions will complete their highly choreographed charade of bargaining by holding a "contract ratification conference" at the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel, where the rooms were reserved and paid for months ago.

Earlier this week, "Labor Notes" published the following article about the negotiations: "Will Kaiser's Labor Partnership Crack?"  The article's title may be a bit exaggerated, but the article accurately describes the basic situation:  Kaiser -- which has pocketed $15.5 billion in profits since 2009 -- is now seeking even more cuts from the partnership unions, and the partnership unions aren’t lifting a finger to fight their rich HMO boss.

SEIU-UHW -- the largest union in the partnership -- didn’t even conduct a bare-bones “contract campaign” among its membership.  An SEIU-UHW member who's quoted in the "Labor Notes" article says most union members don't even know that contract negotiations are taking place this year:
“If you were to walk into any Kaiser right now and say, ‘Are you guys bargaining?’” she says, “the majority would say ‘I don’t even know what you’re taking about’ or ‘I don’t know.’ That’s the truth.”

And SEIU-UHW's president, Dave Regan, and the partnership unions' Chief Negotiator, Hal Ruddick, apparently don't even believe in bargaining. Here's what Regan told members of the partnership unions' bargaining committee... and what Ruddick proudly re-tweeted:

Regan: "Negotiations are not a debate."

Meanwhile, several hints about Kaiser's proposed cuts are finally emerging from the tight-lipped partnership unions.

AFSCME’s United Nurses Associations of California (UNAC) -- which represents thousands of RNs in California -- recently posted an announcement on its website calling on nurses to attend a rally today in order "to protect our wages and benefits." (See below.) The website offers no details about the threatened cuts besides saying, “We need to create a sea of blue on June 3 and send a message to management that we are united to protect our wages, and active and retiree medical benefits!”

A day late and a dollar short.

UNAC’s rally appears to be a cynical ass-covering exercise orchestrated by union leaders. Later on, when workers complain about benefit cuts, the union leaders will say: “We asked you to attend a rally to fight the cuts. But not enough people showed up… so we had to accept them.”

Of course, history points us to the truth:  that the partnership union leaders secretly accepted the cuts months ago in backroom talks with Kaiser's execs, then deliberately kept workers in the dark until the 11th hour and 59th minute, and did absolutely nothing -- aside from a purple "walkathon," photo-ops with Contract Buddy, and yesterday’s lobbying fieldtrip for the California Hospital Association -- to engage workers in any sort of fight against their greedy, multi-billion-dollar boss.