Huge Losses for NUHW-Represented Workers at Kaiser

[July 24, 2013] OAKLAND, CA – Kaiser Permanente has imposed major takebacks on members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) who work in the giant healthcare system’s northern California Optical department. The move comes despite NUHW’s constant refrain during the recently completed Kaiser election that workers would be better off in their union.

“Unfortunately for the northern Optical workers at Kaiser, they are now paying a big price for first believing the false promises of NUHW and then the California Nurses Association,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). “The fact is that those unions have now demonstrated that they simply do not have the strength to be successful at Kaiser, and the workers are suffering as a result. SEIU-UHW members negotiated annual raises and maintained all of their benefits in bargaining last year.”

Kaiser notified the NUHW workers that it is imposing its last, best and final offer, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • No raises. NUHW Optical workers at Kaiser already missed a 3 percent raise in October 2012 that members of SEIU-UHW received, and have no guaranteed raises going forward (effective immediately). SEIU-UHW members have guaranteed 3 percent annual raises through 2016.
  • Major increase in health insurance co-pays. NUHW members’ out-of-pocket payments will go up from $5 to $20 for doctors’ office visits, $5 to up to $15 for prescriptions, $5 to $50 for emergency room and outpatient services, and from $0 to $100 for hospital stays (effective Jan. 1, 2015).
  • Loss of job security. Instead of a year to retrain or find another Kaiser job as SEIU-UHW members have, NUHW Optical workers can now be laid off with just two weeks’ notice (effective Aug. 1, 2013).
  • No future bonuses that can be worth more than $1,000, which SEIU-UHW members continue to receive annually (effective immediately – the Optical worker had already lost their expected bonus in March of this year).
  • No more defined benefit pension for NUHW new hires, just a 401K (effective Jan. 1, 2015).
  • No more fully-paid retiree healthcare for new hires and spouses, and increased costs for current employees (effective Jan. 1, 2015).
  • No guarantee of two consecutive days off a week.

In 2010, Kaiser’s northern Optical workers voted to leave SEIU-UHW and join NUHW. Since that time they have not been able to reach a contract agreement. Kaiser declared a bargaining impasse in December 2012 and gave NUHW its last, best and final offer, which was rejected by the union in March 2013. Under the law, Kaiser can impose its final offer on NUHW members, which it did.

In May of this year, 45,000 Kaiser workers who are members of SEIU-UHW strongly rejected an attempt by NUHW to convince workers to switch to their union. In the largest union election in 70 years, Kaiser workers voted overwhelmingly to stay in SEIU-UHW by a margin of 58.4% to 40.6%. The workers rejected NUHW’s promises that it could achieve a better contract than SEIU-UHW, a decision that now looks wise given recent developments with NUHW’s Optical workers.

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