Friday, March 30, 2012

Kaiser Proposes Benefit Cuts to Partnership Unions

Today, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions finished its second round of bargaining with Kaiser Permanente, which took place in Los Angeles from March 27-29. What happened?  

According to an email that SEIU-UHW sent to its members, Kaiser proposed the same cuts to workers’ health benefits that they earlier proposed to NUHW, the Stationary Engineers, the Pharmacists and other non-partnership unions.

But wait a sec! What about Dave Regan’s genius strategy of “getting out in front of Kaiser’s cuts” by proposing SEIU’s own set of preemptive benefit reductions (a.k.a, SEIU’s enhanced wellness program)? Well, here’s an excerpt from SEIU-UHW’s email (full email is below):
We just finished our second session of national bargaining for a new contract with Kaiser…

In bargaining, we presented our idea to improve Kaiser: we take collective responsibility for improving our health, which is both good for us and keeps healthcare costs in check. In return, we called on Kaiser to deliver on our bargaining priorities…

So what was Kaiser’s response? Flex healthcare plans — just like the takeaway packages that they have been making to Kaiser managers, pharmacists, and other workers—which force workers to pay more for healthcare.
And how bad are Kaiser’s proposed cuts? Basically, part-time workers would be forced to pay about $700 a month to get health insurance for their families. (Currently, these workers pay $0, which is the longtime standard in California’s healthcare industry.) For more details on the proposed cuts, check out this post with leaflets recently circulated by AFSCME’s United Nurses Association of California.

Of course, these are precisely the cuts that NUHW, the CNA and the Stationary Engineers have been fighting by conducting massive strikes, which SEIU has tried to undermine.

So what’s going on? According to insiders, SEIU’s Dave Regan has already made a secret deal with Kaiser’s executives to accept the company’s benefit cuts. That’s why SEIU tried to undermine NUHW’s earlier strikes. And that’s why SEIU has failed to prepare any sort of campaign to fight Kaiser.

In fact, during this famous recording, a worker recently asked SEIU-UHW’s Joe Simoes: “What’s SEIU's plan for fighting Kaiser’s cuts?” Simoes’s response? A wellness walk.

So what’ll happen next? Tasty predicts that SEIU officials will stage a fake campaign of “sticker days” and rallies at Kaiser hospitals that will stretch into late April. At the end of this half-hearted campaign, Dave Regan and John August will turn to Kaiser workers, shrug their shoulders and say, “See? We tried. But we just couldn’t change Kaiser’s mind.” And SEIU, in its predictably dishonest way, will tell workers that the cuts are actually “improvements,” like they did at Catholic Healthcare West.

It’s clear that Kaiser sees its current negotiations with the Coalition as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to roll back workers’ benefits to levels not seen in decades. Kaiser’s executives are abundantly aware that their counterparts on the other side of the bargaining table -- Dave Regan and John August -- are weak, incompetent and corrupt. That’s why Kaiser plans to extract billions of dollars of concessions from its workforce even though Kaiser pocketed $6.1 billion in profits during the past three years.