In an encouraging sign that labor’s historically tense relationship with U.S. health care companies could be improving, two major unions agreed to a tentative deal with California health provider Kaiser Permanente, averting a strike and pressing ahead to negotiate contracts with other major providers.
The agreement covers more than 30,000 members of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. They already had reached tentative agreements with Sutter Health, the other major health care provider in San Francisco’s Bay Area, and Pacific Health Corporation, which operates not-for-profit care centers.
Kaiser Permanente spokesman Mark Thorpe said the parties have agreed to extend the contract for another three months to give them a chance to start talks on collective bargaining agreements with other health care companies in California.
The union had sought to negotiate the contracts on a par with how its members contract with Sutter Health and Pacific Health. They insist that Kaiser Permanente be more open to paying a living wage, enhance its quality measures and provide full health insurance benefits for all of its workforce.
But in a statement, Thorpe said Kaiser was willing to negotiate a new contract that would bring “monumental improvements” to nurses, community care workers, patient care staff and business staff. He said some reforms, such as other healthcare providers’ willingness to offer better benefits, will enhance Kaiser’s effectiveness.