O.P.E.I.U. Voice
Working Together, Moving Forward

Your Voice

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No to KP's THA
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    Are NUHW, CNA and The Pharmacists� Guild just focusing on constant conflict with Kaiser Permanente when they should be focusing on joint success?

    I think they are in favor of joint success but they don�t believe the employer�s infiltration into the most personal areas of their workers� lives is an example of 'joint success'. I think they�re looking ahead and trying to plan for the long term rather than just short term like the UAW should have done rather than trading shop floor rights for money during the Treaty of Detroit. Prior to and during each contract negotiation, KP workers are continually warned that KP 'wants to make us pay premiums for our healthcare'. If/When that happens, how do you think the wellness program will influence premium calculations when "It�s against federal law for corporations to discriminate by charging employees different insurance rates based on their health. Everyone at work is generally charged the same. However, there is an exception when 'bona fide wellness programs' exist. These programs allow an employer to vary premiums up to 20 percent based on risk factors such as cholesterol, weight, blood pressure and smoking" (Which Way To Wellness, Page 8).

    Then, regarding privacy, "employees are 'assured' that responses will be 'kept confidential within Healthmedia, Inc. and Kaiser Permanente. Healthmedia and Kaiser Permanente will not Disclose this information without my permission unless permitted by law and as described in the privacy policy" (Which Way To Wellness, Page 70). Participants are agreeing to give KP access to their healthcare information.

    The 'wellness program' is one of many issues. Sure, NUHW and CNA and The Pharmacist�s Guild and the IUOE would like KP to be successful but I believe they justly believe that they should share in that success. But instead, aside from a few gains (i.e. our slightly increased pension multiplier that we received wholly due to a 'me too' clause which was activated after UNAC won it), each contract seems to give away more benefits.

    Further, it�s a well-known fact that employees in KP�s psychiatry department are significantly overworked and the department is woefully understaffed. It's not too ridiculous a demand that the workers have real influence in regards to minimum staffing needs (like the UAW workers at Ford having control of 'line speed').

    Additionally, we�ve now basically lost total control over work schedules. Nearly all job postings are "varied hours, varied days, varied locations". This makes it incredibly difficult for workers to balance their personal life (i.e. get their children to/from school) and incredibly easy for a manager to reward workers (or retaliate against them). Fortunately, I currently have a manager who I don�t believe would do that, but my previous manager would, did and does. It�s not asking for too much to have a company the size of KP, making record profits, to treat their workers better. Profits at KP jumped 41% through 2014's first three quarters to $3.1 billion, and soared 57 percent in Q3 to nearly $1 billion (Rauber, Kaiser Permanente adds 422,000 enrollees year to date, as profits soar).

    A company making record profits should post job listings that show specific work days, specific work shift hours and specific work locations that a person who applies for said position will actually be working so (s)he may plan his/her personal life accordingly.

    A company making record profits should not be taking retirement benefits away from its workers.

    A company making record profits should not be telling their workers that they need to give up their healthcare information (or face increased co-pays/premiums).

    A company making record profits should not admit to woefully under-serving patients who are need and are reaching out for mental healthcare services by paying a $4 MILLION DOLLAR FINE (Carlson, California fines Kaiser $4M for violating mental health laws) levied upon it by California�s Department of Managed Health Care, and then not fix the under-staffing problem.

    Do I believe that we (labor and management) should focus on joint success with KP? �Absolutely, but it needs to truly be joint success and, when it's not, it's better to stand up for ourselves by disagreeing rather than agree simply to avoid conflict and allow ourselves to be walked on. The adversity NUHW and the other unions face with KP has worked to engage their members which is the strength of the union. Whereas we, as LMP signatory unions, continue to trade away influence on the shop floor (and now even information about our personal lives) for 3% wage increases while suffering from a record low membership participation level of about 9%. It would seem as though hiding from conflict has a price and we're paying it and unions like NUHW are facing the conflict, fighting back and are stronger because of the struggle. "It�s the union in probably its purest form. A large group of people making a decision all at once, together, to do something brave�that builds the union. They can see their power in that moment" (Bradbury, The Logic of Short Hospital Strikes).