Friday, June 8, 2018

Alliance Unions at Bargaining Table While Kaiser and Regan at Standstill

Here’s the latest on the dueling partnership unions that split over Dave Regan’s effort to seize greater control over the partnership unions’ decision-making process.

Last month, the new partnership group -- the Alliance of Health Care Unions -- began national bargaining with Kaiser Permanente. (The Alliance includes the Teamsters, Steelworkers, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, UFCW, ILWU, Operating Engineers and the KPNAA.)

So far, the Alliance has completed three rounds of negotiations with Kaiser, with two more rounds scheduled for June 25-26 and July 8-9, according to the Alliance’s website. During the first round of negotiations (May 17 and May 21-22), the Alliance negotiated and approved an “updated” LMP Agreement with Kaiser, which is posted on the Alliance’s website.

The agreement contains the new so-called “Dave Regan” provisions: (1) a rule allowing the Alliance unions to kick out a member union for “egregious non-partnering behavior upon a vote of 70%” of the partnering unions and (2) a rule barring Kaiser and the Alliance unions from pursuing, sponsoring or supporting legislation or ballot initiatives that “are specifically targeted at and the primary purpose of which is to harm another member of the Partnership.” The second provision is in response to Regan’s filing -- and then withdrawal -- of a statewide ballot initiative targeting Kaiser earlier this year.

After negotiating a LMP Agreement, the Alliance began contract negotiations with Kaiser. During two rounds of bargaining (May 22-24 and May 30-June 2), the discussions reportedly focused on economics (wages, benefits, outsourcing, job security), “Operational Effectiveness” (staffing, budgeting, backfill and attendance), and “Partnership” (partnership expectations and LMP training).

What about the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions?

The Coalition appears to be hunting for a strategy.

The Coalition was supposed to have finished national bargaining with Kaiser by this time, but those negotiations were canceled when the Coalition unions split in two over Regan’s demand for more decision-making power. (The Coalition’s “national agreement” will expire on September 30, 2018).

Kaiser says it will not conduct national bargaining with the Coalition this year, but instead will negotiate individually with the Coalition unions before each union’s local contract expires next year. Kaiser has reportedly asked the Coalition to sign a new LMP Agreement containing the same language recently adopted by the Alliance, which includes the so-called “Dave Regan” rules. Tasty hears that Regan rejected that proposal earlier this week. It’s unclear what, if anything, will happen next.

How are the Coalition and Alliance getting along?

Not well.

The Coalition seems to be seesawing between trashing the Alliance and begging them to re-join the Coalition. After initially panning the Alliance as “the little unions,” the Coalition issued a “message” to the Alliance unions in March saying:
“We hope that the unions who left last-minute will re-join the Coalition -- and join us at the table with management. We are stronger together!” 

More recently, SEIU-UHW posted the following message on its website. It accuses the Alliance unions of plotting to sell out their members and, in Trumpian fashion, offers ‘alternative facts’ about why the Alliance unions quit the Coalition:
A group of small unions representing about one-third of the Coalition decided to break away and form their own group. The leaders of the breakaway unions wanted the right to cut a cheap deal with Kaiser over the objections of the majority of unions. We refused to go along, so those small unions left the Coalition to go it on their own. Some leaders of those unions have voiced a willingness to accept an Agreement with higher healthcare co-pays and lower wage rates for certain regions.

Likewise, the Coalition’s approach towards Kaiser is all over the map.

On the one hand, Regan -- who’s the “Chairman” of the Coalition -- has called Kaiser a “dictator” that “walked away from the partnership.” Meanwhile, Walter Allen (the interim director of the Coalition) has struck a very different tone in public statements posted on the Coalition’s website:
“The unions of the Coalition are completely committed to Partnership and the great work we’ve done together, but any changes to the Partnership need to be discussed in national bargaining,” said Walter Allen, executive director of OPEIU Local 30.

It sounds like Regan and Allen need to get their talking points straight, right?

Of course, the big question is whether the Coalition unions will even be able to conduct another round of national bargaining with Kaiser. At this point, it appears that Kaiser is refusing to conduct national bargaining until the Coalition negotiates a new LMP Agreement that includes the “Dave Regan” provisions – which Regan is rejecting. This leaves any prospects of national contract talks at a standstill.

Stay tuned.