SEIU-UHW workers tell Kaiser to focus on patients, not bottom line
Hundreds of union-represented workers at Kaiser Permanente’s Roseville Medical Center used their lunch breaks to picket the health care giant, part of rallies organized at Kaiser facilities around California through June.
Kaiser recently kicked off contract talks with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, and the union says it is using the protests to send a message that it wants the company to respect how its members have partnered with management and physicians to solve problems and enhance quality and service in the nonprofit’s hospitals.
“Kaiser, in the last couple of years, whilst they’ve never been more successful financially, has decided to start moving away from partnership. We really want to bring them back, back to their roots,” said Kaiser pharmacy technician Chris Grey. “When this company struggled, it was labor who lifted Kaiser back up. We’re just asking, ‘Kaiser, don’t forget us, your partner. We elevate this company.’”
In a prepared news release, Kaiser spokesman John Nelson said the company will continue working in partnership with the unions that represent their employees to keep achieving “the best results for our members, patients, and the communities who depend on Kaiser Permanente to provide high-quality, affordable health care.” This approach, Nelson also noted, is what has kept Kaiser Permanente “a great place to work for all.”
“As a non-profit organization, all our revenues go into providing high-quality, affordable health care and to improving the health of our members and the communities we serve, not to earn a profit or pay shareholders,” Nelson said. “Kaiser Permanente, like other health plans, maintains financial reserves to cover our obligations if something unexpected were to occur or if regular business was interrupted.”
SEIU-UHW said its members will picket Kaiser’s Sacramento Medical Center on Morse Avenue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and the company’s South Sacramento Medical Center on Thursday during the same hours. The union has more than 55,000 members, roughly 6,000 of whom work at Sacramento-area facilities, and it has scheduled protests at 33 Kaiser facilities between May 16 and June 12.
These rallies are not strikes, Nelson said, and they will not affect care delivery or business operations.
The SEIU-UHW contract expires in September 2019. Kaiser is separately negotiating a national contract with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, composed of SEIU-UHW and 11 other unions, and that contract expired in September 2019.