Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kaiser's Partnership Pals Hold Birthday Celebration as Rebellion Breaks Out in Partnership Ranks

Wellness walks? Dance-a-thons? Contract buddies? Purple pedometers?

Meg Niemi and Dennis Dabney
In case you thought you'd seen it all, here's the latest from the Disneyland world of partnership bargaining, which resumed this week at the San Jose Marriott Hotel (April 28-30).

It comes from the twitter account of Meg Niemi, the President of SEIU Local 49Niemi was last seen hugging Kaiser Permanente's top HR executive, Dennis Dabney, during recent bargaining meetings.

On Friday, Meg sent out the following tweet after SEIU members delivered "happy birthday” cards to Scott Allen, Kaiser’s Director of Labor Relations in Washington and Oregon, to celebrate the partnership's birthday. Looks like the officials atop the partnership unions are gearing up for a real knockdown drag-out fight with the Boss, right?

Here's the pic, with the smiling HR official standing in the middle. (Btw, not too many signatures on those b-day cards, right?)

Interestingly, it looks like another partnership union didn't get the memo about the all-smiles-and-hugs approach to Kaiser and its HR department.

UFCW Local 400 -- which is part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and a “partnership” union – has sued Kaiser in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland for violating its members’ contract, according to a Courthouse News article published April 10, 2015.

Local 400 -- whose members include RNs, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Mental Health Professionals, Substance Abuse Counselors, Audiologists and other professionals at 33 Kaiser outpatient facilities in DC, Maryland and Virginia -- says Kaiser is violating basic provisions of its labor contract and giving substandard care to patients so it can boost its profits.

The union has filed more than 60 grievances in an effort to get Kaiser to fix the problems. But Kaiser won't even follow the contract's grievance procedure!  That's why Local 400 is suing Kaiser in federal court.

Yesterday, UFCW Local 400 posted the following statement on its website: “Kaiser Worker Treatment Cause of Concern.” 

The statement details problems with off-the-clock work, inadequate staffing levels that underminethe quality of care, Kaiser’s profiteering at the expense of patients, and the HMO’s refusal to give benefited positions to workers. Here are some excerpts:
Once a model of labor-management cooperation, Kaiser Permanente has made troubling changes in the way it treats its health professionals, bringing in managers lacking experience in a union environment, disregarding the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, and focusing more on profits than the well-being of its employees and patients. 
As a result, an unprecedented number of grievances have been filed in the Mid-Atlantic region over the past year.
“Kaiser was once a model employer and we hope it will be again, but right now it’ s anything but,” said Local 400 Secretary-Treasurer Lavoris ”Mikki” Harris... 
“Kaiser’s recent behavior leads me to wonder whether the for-profit cart is dragging the non-profit horse,” Harris said. “As a result, Kaiser’s vaunted Labor-Management Partnership is not what it once was, with Kaiser’s health professionals being treated not as its most valuable resource, but rather as a cost to be minimized. Together, we will reverse this unfortunate turn of events.”

Way to go, Local 400! 

It sounds like the local’s members -- many of whom do the same work as NUHW’s members in California – have borrowed a page from the red union's playbook. 

More to come? Stay tuned.