Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions

National Bargaining Between KP and the Alliance Begins

a man in background, a woman in foreground, listening to a presentation

In a scene from 2018 National Bargaining, Frank Hurtarte, senior vice president, Human Resources, Southern California, and Charmaine Morales, executive vice president, UNAC/UHCP, listen intently to a presentation. Both are participating in national bargaining this year between KP and the Alliance.

Virtual kickoff sets the stage for arriving at a second national agreement

Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions kicked off national bargaining on April 20 under a streamlined virtual format driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bargaining sessions are scheduled to run through September and will involve more than 100 management and labor representatives from across the organization. This marks the second time that KP and the Alliance have negotiated a national contract since the Alliance, which comprises 22 local unions, formed in 2018. The current national agreement expires September 30, 2021.

A different bargaining experience

Like so much else during the pandemic, this bargaining year differs significantly from the past. Most sessions will be held virtually, with in-person meetings scheduled for late August and September.

In addition, the number of bargaining sessions has been reduced from 30 sessions in 2018 to 14 for 2021. During those sessions, subject matter experts chosen by management and labor will form subcommittees to address specific topic areas. This year, those topics include problem and dispute resolution; staffing, backfill, and the use of travelers; patient and worker safety; and racial justice.

Hal Ruddick, executive director of the Alliance, said the Labor Management Partnership is more important than ever as both parties seek new ways to work together in a difficult health care environment.

“The pandemic has been difficult for all of us, especially our frontline health care workers,” said Ruddick. “We’re looking forward to upholding our partnership commitment to the best jobs and the best performance to prepare for future challenges.”

Interest-based bargaining

The Alliance represents almost 50,000 workers enterprisewide, nearly half of whom are represented by United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals. Under the 2018 Labor Management Partnership Agreement, KP and the Alliance agreed to work collaboratively to improve the quality of care for members and communities and help KP lead the market in health care — while preserving industry-leading benefits and working conditions for employees.

Steve Shields, senior vice president of National Labor Relations and Office of Labor Management Partnership, said he looks forward to negotiating a new agreement with the Alliance.

“I’m excited to be involved in national bargaining this year and to use an interest-based process that has served Kaiser Permanente and its labor partners so well over the years,” said Shields.

Unlike traditional bargaining where each side takes an adversarial position, interest-based bargaining calls for the parties to identify common issues of concern and work collaboratively to achieve mutually beneficial solutions. The process helps labor and management maintain a respectful and constructive relationship while creating a deeper commitment to the final agreement.

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