An update on the Colorado Kaiser strike: SEIU and Kaiser perspectives

Colorado Kaiser workers have voted to proceed with a strike next month. More than 3,000 Colorado workers voted on the strike, with 96% voting in support, according to an SEIU 105 press release sent to State of Reform via email. 

Last month we covered the beginning stages of Kaiser strike negotiations. A strike would impact nearly 45% of Kaiser’s Colorado workforce and thousands of Colorado workers. Kaiser is the largest private insurance provider in the state. 

 

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A major sticking point in strike negotiations is the cost of living. The union representing Kaiser workers sought a 3% pay increase, but Kaiser is only offering a 1% increase. The union argues that many of the facilities are under-staffed and overworked as a result of the low wages. 

With the addition of the state’s employees, roughly 42,000 workers in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions have voted to approve the strike, and only 1,000 have voted no. Four unions have yet to vote.

Last week, the Denver City Council expressed support for Kaiser workers, and said they would support a strike if it occurred. Council members said that, “it is difficult for us as elected leaders to recommend Kaiser as a health plan to our government employees given this current dynamic of income inequality at the top coupled with demands for workforce cuts.”  

“We are concerned by reports of the deterioration of the Labor/Management Partnership, including Unfair Labor Practice complaints against Kaiser by the NLRB, outsourcing of quality middle class jobs and Kaiser’s insistence on reductions in raises and benefits in its negotiations with SEIU Local 105 despite record profits, reserves and executive compensation packages,” the letter from the Council stated. 

In an emailed statement to State of Reform, Kaiser Permanente Colorado stated:

“To be clear, Kaiser Permanente has recently presented a contract proposal to union leadership that would provide annual pay increases that would keep our employees compensated competitively and maintain excellent benefits.Contrary to the union’s claims, there are no pay cuts and no changes to our employees’ pension benefits under our most recent proposal, which is one of several options we are offering to the Coalition in an effort to find common ground.”

The statement also explains that Kaiser believes that SEIU leadership has decided to use the threat of a strike to divide employees, that the strike ballot questions were misleading, and that a number of false claims have been reported. A recent Kaiser contract, according to the statement, would provide employees with benefits to include affordable health care, career mobility, retirement security, opportunities for new hires, and wage increases between 1 and 2 percent to be implemented between 2020 and 2022.

Final vote counts will be available next week. And, a number of unions still have yet to finish their voting. A strike is loosely planned for some time in October.