FRESNO COUNTY – In the wake of a massive employee strike, Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions strike a deal that offers pay raises as well as tackles workforce shortages.
Announced on Oct. 13, Kaiser and the Coalition have reached a tentative employment contract. This came after tens of thousands of Kaiser employees staged a three-day protest across the county on Oct. 4.
“After our historic three-day strike, we won a new agreement that takes strong steps to address the staffing crisis,” the Coalition posted on its website.
According to the Coalition, which represents 85,000 Kaiser employees across the country, Kaiser agreed to a 21% across-the-board raise for all employees. The incremental raises begin with a 6% percent raise in October. There will be subsequent 5% raises in October 2024, October 2025 and October 2026. The agreement also includes a $1,500 ratification bonus for all workers.
The Coalition said the raises constitute the largest raise package in the history of the Kaiser Labor/Management partnership.
A major sticking point for California employees was the high cost of living in the state. According to the Coalition, in previous negotiations, Kaiser refused to pay its California employees a livable wage. While both sides agree this agreement is tentative, they did reach an accord on pay for California workers. Effective June 2024, the minimum wage for California employees will increase to $23 per hour. Beginning June 2025, this will increase to $24 per hour; in 2026, it will increase to $25 per hour.
Employees outside of California will see the per hour minimum wage increase to $21 in June 2024, followed by annual increases to $22 per hour in 2025 and $23 per hour in 2026.
The agreement includes an increase in the minimum payout of the company’s performance sharing program (PSP) to $1,500, which will be prorated for part-time employees.
Both sides in the dispute claimed victory. Steve Shields, Kaiser vice president of labor relations, said patients would not have to bear the brunt of employee wage increases.
“It’s not our intention that this agreement would have any impact on rates,” Shields said. He added that the agreement aligns with Kaiser’s goals for the future.
“We have to really focus on mutual interests like creating the next generation of healthcare workers,” said Shields.
Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) represents Kaiser employees in California.
According to SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan, the tentative agreement effectively addresses cost of living, not just in California, but across the country.
The agreement “unquestionably allows this workforce to not just keep up with but exceed the cost of living that people are struggling with across the country,” said Regan. He added that the Coalition pushed for and received the same pay raises for all employees working outside of California. In prior negotiations, Kaiser had suggested different wage increases for different regions.