POMONA, Calif. – Teamsters Joint Council 42 and Joint Council 7, representing a combined 350,000 workers and retirees in California, voted to support an unfair labor practices strike beginning Oct. 14 that affects more than 80,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente in California, five other states and Washington, D.C.
“Kaiser Permanente is just the latest example of a corporation that has lost its way by emphasizing huge profits and enriching top executives rather than honoring its mission to serve the community,” said Randy Cammack, president of Teamsters Joint Council 42, which is based in Pomona, Calif.
Other labor organizations supporting the strike include 19 regional labor groups in California – including the Los Angeles Labor Federation, and the Colorado AFL-CIO.
“Workers reject what Kaiser has become, because the real fight should be about providing quality healthcare and protecting the good, middle-class jobs America needs,” said David Hawley, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7, which is based in San Francisco.
The strike is supported by prominent elected officials, including six Democratic Presidential candidates; U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); 26 U.S. Representatives; 71 California State Legislators; 26 Oregon State Legislators; and four Colorado State Legislators.
Workers will strike at Kaiser Permanente hospitals, medical office buildings and other facilities in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. It would be the nation’s largest strike since 185,000 Teamsters members walked out at United Parcel Service in 1997.
They want Kaiser Permanente to bargain in good faith and stop committing unfair labor practices, and are fighting for a new contract that would:
- Restore a true worker-management partnership, and have Kaiser bargain in good faith;
- Ensure safe staffing and compassionate use of technology;
- Build the workforce of the future to deal with major projected shortages of licensed and accredited staff in the coming years; and
- Protect middle-class jobs with wages and benefits that can support families.
As a non-profit entity, Kaiser Permanente is supposed to serve the public interest in exchange for not paying income taxes and little to nothing in property taxes – an estimated tax break of more than $2.3 billion over the last two years. But in recent years, the corporation has departed from its community-oriented mission by:
- Piling Up Record Profits and Reserves:
Although registered with the IRS as a “non-profit” company, Kaiser Permanente made more than $5.2 billion in profits during the first half of 2019, bringing its profits to more than $11 billion since Jan. 1, 2017. The company also sits on more than $37 billion in reserves. If it was eligible to be listed on the Fortune 500, it would be ranked #34.
- Enriching Top Executives:
Kaiser pays its CEO, Bernard Tyson, $16 million a year and at least 35 other executives a million dollars or more a year. Tyson received a 60 percent raise of $6 million in 2017, and his compensation is more than CEOs at for-profit corporations such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola, UPS, and Yum! Brands.
- Raising Rates on Patients:
Health insurance premiums for Kaiser patients go up year after year – including spikes this year of 9.2 percent for individual plans and 4.7 percent for large group plans.
- Underserving Low-Income Patients:
While Kaiser Permanente counts more than 12 million patients nationwide, it treats far less than its share of low-income patients. Whereas 21 percent of Americans receive health coverage through Medicaid, Kaiser’s volume of Medicaid patients is less than half that figure. In the corporation’s busiest state, California, only eight percent of Kaiser Permanente’s patients receive Medicaid compared to 27 percent of patients at other non-profit health systems.
- Destroying Good Jobs:
Kaiser Permanente is actively destroying good jobs and quality care by outsourcing jobs to companies which pay workers less and offer fewer benefits. The company also wants to slash the wages and benefits of future employees. Hundreds of jobs have already been outsourced in California, including parking lot attendants, shuttle drivers, couriers and warehouse workers. An earlier attempt in 2019 to outsource 60 gardeners was reversed after the company faced intense political and worker opposition.
The workers’ national contract expired Sept. 30, 2018, and in December 2018 the National Labor Relations Board charged Kaiser Permanente with failing to bargain in good faith. Since then, Kaiser has continued to commit unfair labor practices.