Kaiser closed hospital cafeterias to interfere with strike votes, union leaders claim

Union leaders allege that Kaiser Permanente closed hospital cafeterias in California to interfere with workers voting on whether to empower their bargaining team to call a nationwide strike.

A news release from the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions states that the Oakland, Calif.-based healthcare giant closed the cafeterias before voting began July 29 on a walkout that would affect more than 80,000 unionized Kaiser employees.

"We have patients who come in for fasting labs, people who are diabetic and families of very sick patients who need access to the cafeterias and a real meal, not just orange juice and snacks," Eric Jines, an electrophysiology radiologic technician at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center, said in a news release. "It appears that top executives with their million-dollar salaries have lost touch with the essential needs of patients and visitors in their hospitals simply because they did not want employees to vote to authorize a strike."

Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources at Kaiser Permanente, disputed the allegations. She told Becker's that hospital leaders notified the union that voting in the hospital cafeteria violated hospital policy and the union's contract in addition to threatening to disrupt patient care.

Ms. Peasnall said the hospital sought a compromise over the weekend, telling the union it "would provide designated space for voting that was not immediately adjacent to patient care areas."

She said most staff and union members have complied, but that some union members threatened to locate in unapproved areas, including cafeterias, which resulted in Kaiser Permanente being slow to open some cafeterias July 29. 

Unionized Kaiser workers have started voting on whether to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike beginning in October. 


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