For Immediate Release
March 3, 2021
Oakland, Calif. – Fifty-eight thousand Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers were shocked to learn the healthcare corporation was delivering lower annual performance sharing bonuses despite the CEO’s message that the bonuses would reflect the company’s “appreciation” for the hardships workers had endured in the pandemic. They were particularly dismayed to discover that Kaiser executives had reduced employee bonuses overall because workers had failed to meet pre-pandemic attendance goals, in large part because of COVID infections and quarantine periods. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions had previously agreed with Kaiser to tie part of the annual bonus to attendance improvements with an understanding that such reductions would pick up after the pandemic.
“This feels like a slap in the face,” said Kaiser Downey Emergency Room Technician Gabriel Montoya, who got sick with COVID-19 earlier in the year in an exposure he believes happened at work. “From Kaiser not filling open positions, to limiting the distribution of masks and other PPE, to being forced to care for our patients without enough staff, we have been pushed to the brink. We were on board with improving attendance before the pandemic, but we’ve gotten exposed and sick from COVID because we came to work. Some workers were hospitalized and even died. And for that, they’re going to cut our bonus? It’s unbelievable.”
“There’s a real disconnect between the thinking of Kaiser executives and the experience of frontline workers,” says Donna Norton, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser Vacaville. “Improve attendance during a pandemic? Not only is that not safe, it’s not possible. Workplace exposures have kept us home, as has the traumatic toll of working through this pandemic. Transporters have had to wheel out bodies every day. Healthcare workers have lived in fear the masks they’re forced to re-use wouldn’t protect them during aerosolized procedures. So many caregivers have been physically exhausted from taking on extra shifts week after week and mentally worn down from losing patients on a daily basis. Of course, attendance isn’t going to improve.”
Kaiser Permanente made $6.4 billion in profits in 2020. At least 17 caregivers represented by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions lost their lives to COVID-19.
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SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the United States, with 97,000 members. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.