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Kaiser Permanente Workers Deserve ‘Fair’ Deal: U.S. Senators (1)

Nov. 12, 2021, 9:18 PMUpdated: Nov. 12, 2021, 10:01 PM

Eight Senate Democrats weighed in on the Kaiser Permanente labor dispute, urging the company to negotiate a “fair contract” as more than 32,000 nurses, physician assistants, and other workers plan to strike Nov. 15.

The senators, led by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wrote to Kaiser Chair and CEO Greg Adams on Friday, saying the workers “deserve a fair wage increase” and pointing out that many “risked their lives to save patients” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The workers are planning to strike unless negotiations improve, and another 8,000 of their colleagues have also authorized a strike. They are represented by a handful of different unions, including the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals. If a strike takes place, the Kaiser employees would join workers at Kellogg Co. and Deere & Co. in walking off the job to demand better pay and working conditions amid a wave of recent labor unrest.

The senators criticized Kaiser’s proposal of a 2% wage increase and a two-tier system that they said would allow management to pay new workers at a lower rate.

“Now, at a time when Kaiser is sitting on $44.5 billion in cash reserves and your insured membership has grown to 12.5 million, the company wishes to diminish the safety, security, and wellbeing of its workers, rather than improve them,” the senators wrote in the letter. “Your employees deserve better.”

A Kaiser Permanente statement issued through a spokesperson said the parties are “on a path to reaching an agreement.” It said the company remains “committed to working together with labor for the benefit of our employees, members, and the communities that rely on us.”

“We believe we can reach an agreement that meets our shared interests and avoid unnecessary and harmful disruptions to care,” the company added.

In addition to Sanders, the letter was signed by Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

(Updated with comment from Kaiser Permanente, in paragraphs 6 and 7.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com