Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NUHW Kicks Kaiser Permanente out of AFL-CIO Convention

On Sunday, an interesting development unfolded at the Los Angeles Convention Center that marks an important moment in the history of Kaiser Permanente and its relationship with the U.S. labor movement.

As a result of NUHW, the AFL-CIO booted Kaiser and its purple purveyors of “partnership” out of the federation’s national convention because of Kaiser’s anti-labor track record. It’s a significant action given Kaiser's long-standing effort to market itself as a labor-friendly company.

And there’s absolutely no bigger forum for a showdown between Kaiser vs. Workers. After all, the AFL-CIO convention, where 1,600 delegates have gathered for five days, is the largest gathering of unions in the U.S.

Multiple media outlets are covering the story. Here’s how one article, entitled “Planned Union Protest Avoided When AFL-CIO Cancels Kaiser Events,” begins:

The AFL-CIO managed to avert a planned union-led protest by calling off scheduled national convention events that featured Kaiser Permanente this weekend, The Hill reports.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) had planned to picket the Sunday and Monday events highlighting the California hospital chain and health maintenance organization but found nothing to protest when AFL-CIO officials at the 11th hour removed the Kaiser sessions from the convention schedule.

Another article picks up the story:

The AFL-CIO scheduled two convention presentations featuring Kaiser Permanente (KP), the California hospital chain and health maintenance organization (HMO) whose continuing drive for contract concessions triggered statewide strikes by 20,000 of its own workers in 2011 and 2012…

In a letter sent to Trumka on Oct. 6, five Kaiser technical and professional employees who belong to the CNA-affiliated National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) questioned why the AFL was showcasing Kaiser as a “model employer.” They noted that “multiple affiliates of the AFL-CIO are currently in the middle of an epic struggle at Kaiser to defend standards that workers have fought decades to establish.” They asked Trumka “and the rest of the AFL-CIO to stand with us and not with this multi-billion dollar HMO.”  NUHW supporters at Kaiser in L.A. also prepared a leaflet detailing their employer’s recent mistreatment of workers and patients in California. They planned to distribute the flyer to the 1,600 delegates and guests attending the convention’s opening session that began at 3 p.m. yesterday.
Below, Tasty has posted NUHW’s letter and excerpts from the convention’s agenda detailing Kaiser's planned spots on the agenda, where the mega-HMO planned to push its wellness program and “Instant Recesses.”

Because of NUHW’s efforts, at the 11th hour on Sunday the AFL-CIO kicked Kaiser out. And Kaiser’s spot on the agenda was given to U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)!

Tasty’s sources say Kaiser officials were inside the convention center on Sunday when their departure was ordered.

In one article, an observer describes the action as “quite a blow to the HMO given its partnership with the AFL and Service Employees International Union,” which left the AFL-CIO in 2005.

Of course, it now remains to be seen whether the AFL-CIO will turn this action against Kaiser into a something more substantial. But for the time being, it represents another success for the feisty fighters at NUHW and an indication of the growing anti-Kaiser sentiment among unions.

Here’s more press coverage. Plus, see the two documents below.

Labor Notes:  No ‘Instant Recess’ at AFL-CIO Convention        
CounterPunch: “As the Curtain Rises in LA