Kaiser Permanente employees plan actions to call for bonus, honor workers

Kaiser Permanente employees across the U.S. will hold a week of actions to honor healthcare workers and call for a "hero bonus" for 85,000 members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, the coalition said Nov. 30. 

Members of the coalition said many Kaiser workers will be away from their families this holiday season, and they deserve recognition because they have risked their lives and the lives of their families during the pandemic. They also urged Kaiser executives to retain employees for safe, quality care. 

With reported net income growth of more than 68 percent in the third quarter of 2020, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente can afford the bonuses, the coalition said.

"In the lab we're processing COVID samples and seeing hundreds of patients a day," said Paula Coleman, a clinical laboratory assistant at Kaiser Permanente Englewood Medical Offices in Colorado and a member of SEIU Local 105. "We take great pride in our work, and we love our patients with all of our hearts. But we also have a feeling of dread as we put our lives on the line every day during the pandemic. Administrators seem to have forgotten that we're the backbone of Kaiser, from the lab to nurses, nursing assistants, techs, environmental services, dietary workers and clerks. We're the ones in the trenches doing the jobs no one else wants to do. We need management to recognize and acknowledge that in order for Kaiser to thrive, front-line workers and our families must thrive as well."

The actions are slated to begin Dec. 7 and will take place in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Washington state. They will honor Kaiser workers as well as call on Kaiser to reward at least 3 percent of payroll with a bonus, coalition members said. They will include workers taking a moment of silence to honor fallen co-workers who died from COVID-19, as well as workers holding illuminated banners that say "Honor Kaiser Heroes."

Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources consulting markets and labor and employee relations at Kaiser, said the organization has been working collaboratively with coalition members throughout the pandemic to share information, address ongoing challenges such as workforce safety and raise new concerns. She also cited benefit programs and resources Kaiser has offered employees in 2020, including a weekly child care grant, extended paid sick leave and a dedicated helpline to connect employees with child care providers, mental health and wellness programs, and other social needs. Additionally, union-represented employees qualify for a performance incentive plan in recognition for their contributions in helping Kaiser reach quality and affordability goals, Ms. Peasnall said in an in a statement shared with Becker's Nov. 30.  

"We are disappointed that some in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions would decide to ignore our successful joint problem-solving process, and disregard the spirit of partnership we have been developing together, and instead launch a public advocacy campaign to promote this request," she wrote. "This approach is not consistent with our partnership values and not constructive." 

Ms. Peasnall said Kaiser will continue to work with union leaders and give the coalition request due consideration.

 

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