OAKLAND, Calif., April 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As months of national bargaining for a new union contract covering 100,000 union members at Kaiser Permanente began yesterday, Service Employees International Union--United Healthcare West (SEIU-UHW)'s 121-member bargaining team delivered a strong message to management: we are united for a contract that upholds high standards at the nation's largest not-for-profit health care provider, including good wages and maintaining all existing healthcare benefits.
At Tuesday's introductory session, Kaiser management described their current cost structure as "unsustainable" and said "changes must be made."
SEIU-UHW members, who at 48,000 make up nearly half of the 100,000 union members in the 32 unions in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, knew exactly what Kaiser was trying to signal.
"Kaiser made a presentation that laid the groundwork for takeaways," said Jolene Camp, a medical assistant at Kaiser Roseville and a member of the union bargaining committee. "There's no way SEIU-UHW members are giving up any of our healthcare benefits. We give 110 percent to Kaiser and our patients and we deserve better."
Following Kaiser's initial presentation, Dave Regan, SEIU-UHW Trustee, told the hundreds of managers and union members assembled, "We've heard lots of discussion about numbers and priorities but we know what Kaiser's really saying to its healthcare workforce: 'we want your stuff.' Our message back is an emphatic 'keep your hands off it.'"
Anticipating the start of national bargaining, thousands of SEIU-UHW members at Kaiser hospitals and clinics across the state have been holding rallies in support of the 2010 bargaining goals: win raises for all members, maintain all healthcare benefits and lock-in long-term job security. The current agreement expires in October 2010.
"Kaiser has always set the standard – whether in providing quality healthcare to the community or offering pay and benefits that keep experienced staff and define Kaiser as one of the best employers anywhere. Going into contract negotiations, we expect to build on the successes of previous years," said Michael Kelly, a senior surgical technician at Kaiser Antioch Medical Center and a bargaining committee member.
Bargaining between Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is conducted at a single, national negotiating table. In addition to the national agreement, 2010 bargaining also includes local negotiations to address issues specific to local regions and members of individual unions.
Throughout negotiations, which are scheduled through June, SEIU-UHW members will blog about the issues and progress being made. Read bargaining committee members' opinions at: http://www.seiu-uhw.org/2010/04/check-out-our-bargainers-blogs.html.
SEIU – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is the largest hospital and healthcare union in the western United States with more than 150,000 members. We unite every type of healthcare worker with a mission to achieve high-quality healthcare for all. SEIU-UHW is part of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's fastest-growing union. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.
Contact: Adriana Surfas, 510.869.2246
SOURCE SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West