Saturday, May 12, 2012

Update on Kaiser Bargaining

Early Friday morning, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions reached a tentative agreement with Kaiser Permanente. SEIU-UHW immediately announced it will begin ratification votes in six days.

So what’s in the tentative agreement?

Good question. SEIU claims it’s a wonderful agreement, but is conveniently refusing to provide the actual language of the agreement to its members. Instead, SEIU told workers in an email that it will only provide “summaries” of the agreement when workers show up for the ratification votes. In fact, not even the members of SEIU-UHW’s bargaining committee were given copies of the tentative agreements, according to a committee member.

SEIU has a well-known history of lying to its members about its negotiations. At Catholic Healthcare West, Hal Ruddick famously lied to workers by telling them that SEIU-UHW had improved their pension plan even though Ruddick had negotiated hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to their retirement benefits.

As the saying goes, the devil’s in the details. And so far, SEIU refuses to cough up the details.

Meanwhile, insiders are offering reports about the agreement. Sources say SEIU allowed Kaiser -- whose profits are growing bigger by the day -- to cut workers’ retiree health benefits.

On Friday, just 10 hours after SEIU and Kaiser signed their tentative agreement, the giant HMO finally announced first quarter profits totaling $770 million. An email from NUHW put it this way:
Why, at a time when Kaiser has made nearly $7 billion in profits in the last three years, is SEIU agreeing to any concessions at all?
The tentative agreement also contains a “wellness” program that ties workers’ body weight and blood pressure to financial incentives. An SEIU press release offered details like these:
The agreement calls for benchmarks on body mass index (BMI), smoking cessation, cholesterol, blood pressure, and workplace injury rates, with a goal of reducing those indicators by 5 percent over the life of the agreement.
In addition, SEIU’s agreement would establish a “Total Health Leadership Committee” and Kaiser-paid “union healthcare leaders” who are charged with encouraging Kaiser workers “to live healthier lives.” Hmm… sounds like SEIU will soon be acting as the boss’s “Wellness Cops,” right?

The days ahead will hopefully offer more details about the Coalition’s tentative agreement. To the extent the agreement doesn’t contain all of the concessions initially proposed by Kaiser, it represents a big victory for members of NUHW and the California Nurses Association.

Consider this: at companies like Catholic Healthcare West (now “Dignity Healthcare”) and the Daughters of Charity Health System, Dave Regan and Co. simply accepted massive cuts to workers’ wages and benefits.

At Kaiser, NUHW and the California Nurses Association placed the Boss and SEIU in a tremendous squeeze play. NUHW and the CNA waged massive strikes against Kaiser’s cuts on the front end of negations. And during the Coalition’s bargaining, NUHW organized thousands of SEIU-UHW’s own members to oppose any cuts.

Meanwhile, NUHW’s not-yet-scheduled decertification election for 43,000 of Kaiser’s workers exerted even more pressure from the back end of negotiations. That's why an SEIU bargaining committee member says that NUHW was a constant topic of discussion among Kaiser execs and union officials at the Coalition’s negotiations.

Tasty hopes to have more details about the agreement in the days ahead. Stay tuned!