UPDATE (11:20 a.m. PT) — The healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente announced Wednesday that it reached an agreement with its employee unions after nearly five months of bargaining and threats of strikes.
The four-year collective bargaining agreement will cover 85,000 employees in 11 local unions, including 8,300 employees in Oregon and Washington.
Workers had threatened a strike in October. But the agreement now includes wage increases, opportunities for career improvement and restrictions on outsourcing jobs.
Labor relations expert Rebecca Givan with Rutgers University said strike threats around the country and a strong commitment to strike led Kaiser executives to the agreement.
“The General Motors strike has really focused the country’s attention on major strikes … and the threat was serious and had to be taken seriously,” Givan said.
Meg Niemi, the president of SEIU Local 49 in Portland, said her members are ecstatic.
"We’ve been in bargaining for really over two years with Kaiser Permanente to get a renewed partnership agreement — to protect middle-class jobs, to make sure members have protections against technology taking their jobs, as well as outsourcing. And our bargaining team is unanimous behind that they recommend this agreement,” Niemi said.
Kaiser Permanente issued a statement saying if ratified, the agreement will position the company for a sustainable future.
“We greatly respect and value our employees who deliver on our mission every day,” said Arlene Peasnall, interim chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente. “This agreement is a testament to the dedication, compassion and skill those employees bring to work every day and demonstrates that Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition have a shared commitment to affordability for our members."
“Kaiser Permanente has an unparalleled track record of working constructively with labor to solve problems together to improve the care and service offered to our members and patients,” Peasnall added. “We may disagree at times, but we have always been able to work through our challenges to align on common goals.”
The agreement will go on to coalition union members for ratification and is expected to be voted on by the end of October.