Friday, January 26, 2018

SEIU-UHW Revises its Ballot Initiative as Kaiser Permanente Fires Back

 Dave Regan and KP's VP of HR Chuck Columbus during friendlier times
Here’s the latest on Dave Regan’s ballot-initiative battle with his erstwhile pals at Kaiser Permanente.

It appears that Regan’s team bungled the writing of the ballot initiative. More than a month after SEIU-UHW filed its initiative with the California Attorney General’s office, Regan’s lawyers notified the Attorney General that, umm, they were changing the initiative’s language.

On December 22, Regan’s lawyers sent a letter (see below) with “amended text” that that includes a bunch of changes and brand-new language that boost the length of the proposed initiative by 50%.

On January 22, the Attorney General’s office issued “title and summary” to SEIU-UHW’s ballot initiative.

The following day, Kaiser attacked the initiative in materials posted on its website.

Kaiser’s materials hint at one of the many obstacles SEIU-UHW will face. 

If Regan is successful in winning a very expensive election campaign to convince California voters to approve the initiative, the initiative could block Kaiser from increasing its monthly insurance premiums – which means no new money for pay increases and pension contributions for Kaiser workers, including SEIU-UHW’s members. Here’s an excerpt from the materials that Kaiser posted earlier this week:
The official analysis by the California Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst Office… confirms the negative effects that the measure would have on Kaiser Permanente. If enacted into law, the measure could… decrease the funds needed to support employee benefits including pensions and post-retirement medical benefits…”

Now... many unions -- including the hotel workers -- have run successful boycott campaigns in which unionized workers threaten the revenue stream of their own companies. But this requires high levels of organization among workers so they’re willing to threaten the so-called hand that feeds them. Are SEIU-UHW’s members well organized?

Another obstacle: Can Regan convince California voters to approve the initiative even as Kaiser (and presumably other insurance companies) mount a well-funded campaign to oppose it?

Finally, here’s one more excerpt from the materials Kaiser published this week:

What Is Really Going On Here?
The backers of this initiative claim their measure is needed because too many health plans are stockpiling cash while continuing to raise rates. But this initiative is written to leave out almost every health plan in California. And the one hit hardest, Kaiser Permanente, is hurt because of its hospital system, not because it has too much cash.
The truth is that this initiative was sponsored by the leadership of SEIU-UHW as retaliation after Kaiser Permanente refused to agree to the union’s inappropriate demands involving an inter-union dispute. In late 2017, SEIU-UHW requested that Kaiser Permanente bargain with them as the sole representative of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (“the Coalition”). It would have been inappropriate — and a violation of our agreements with the Coalition — for Kaiser Permanente to negotiate with SEIU-UHW as the sole representative for the Coalition without explicit consent of the other nearly three dozen Coalition unions. When Kaiser Permanente refused SEIU-UHW’s request, SEIU-UHW filed this ballot initiative.