FONTANA, Calif., Sept. 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7600 at Kaiser Permanente have scheduled a strike authorization vote to be held October 2-10, as negotiations continue over a new labor agreement that will enable them to continue providing high-quality care for the Inland Empire community.
"With demands that would negatively impact worker safety and patient care, it's clear that management is more concerned with pursuing its own agenda than it is about workers and patients," said Local 7600 President Michael Barnett. "We urge Kaiser Permanente to come to the table and bargain with us for a fair contract rather than force workers into a labor dispute by insisting on dangerous cost-cutting measures that would make it impossible to maintain safe staffing levels."
Roughly 7,400 health care workers in USW Local 7600, in conjunction with the 20 other local unions who make up the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU), have been bargaining with Kaiser Permanente since this past spring. Both the national and local agreements expire Sept. 30.
Kaiser Permanente's most divisive demands include a two-tiered wage scale that would pay new hires significantly less for doing the same jobs as current workers, making it even more difficult to fill empty positions.
The paltry wage increases that the company has proposed for current members of the union also do nothing to address the tremendous pay disparity between Inland Empire workers and their area counterparts.
As a result, members of USW Local 7600 plan to vote on whether to grant negotiators the authority to institute a strike if necessary.
"We're stretched thin, and after more than a year and a half of sacrifices throughout the pandemic, morale is starting to falter," said Barnett. "We've pulled together to make sure that shifts are covered and our patients are well cared for, sometimes at the expense of our own health and security. But we need management to take safe staffing seriously, and we need them to prioritize our community as much as we do."
The decision to hold the vote comes after the local decided to pause their labor-management partnership with Kaiser last Friday over similar concerns. The local is also pursuing multiple unfair labor practice charges after management threatened to withhold or cancel vacations and other earned time off until the contract is settled, as well as intimidated workers who wore union t-shirts to show their support for the bargaining committee.
USW Local 7600 represents workers in more than 200 different job classes, including licensed vocational nurses, appointment clerks, housekeeping attendants, medical assistants, customer service representatives, pharmacy assistants, phlebotomists, pharmacy technicians, membership service representatives and dietary aides, across 72 Kaiser Permanente locations in Southern California.
The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.