Kaiser workers to protest at hospitals across California: 10 things to know

Healthcare workers plan to protest sporadically from May 1-18  at 33 hospitals owned by Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente. 

Here are 10 things to know.

1. Thousands of healthcare workers are expected to participate in the protests, according to the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, which represents more than 55,000 California Kaiser Permanente employees.

2. The protests will occur intermittently on weekdays between May 1 and May 18.

3. Healthcare workers are protesting various strategic moves they believe would hurt patients and workers, which include Kaiser's plan to close its pharmacy warehouse in Downey, Calif., on or around Oct. 1, according to a notice from Kaiser.

4. Union officials claim the closure in Downey is slated to affect 61 warehouse workers. They also claim Kaiser plans to cut an additional 175 pharmacy warehouse jobs in Oakland, Livermore and Los Angeles, as well as relocate 700 jobs from three call centers in Los Angeles, Baldwin Park and Woodland Hills to other California locations. The union further contends the call center workers will earn less money as a result of the relocation, and that Kaiser "wants to pay new employees in the Central Valley 20 percent less and new hires in Sacramento 10 percent less."

5. Lanette Griffin, a laboratory assistant at Kaiser in South Sacramento, said: "Kaiser Permanente is raking in money and yet it's acting like it has no choice but to outsource jobs, relocate workers and pay new employees less. It makes no sense because Kaiser Permanente is a nonprofit organization and it is supposed to be putting the community's interests first."

6. In statements to Becker's Hospital Review, John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser, called the union's claims "exactly the opposite of what's happening," as well as "inaccurate and misleading." Mr. Nelson also told Becker's the union's claims that Kaiser revealed 700 layoffs or relocations at its call centers "is simply not true. Their claims that we are moving jobs to areas where workers will be paid less or proposing lowering wages for some workers [are] also incorrect."

7. Mr. Nelson did confirm that after discussions with unions, including SEIU-UHW, Kaiser is making changes to its pharmacy distribution network, and decided that an external pharmacy storage and distribution network is the best option.

"The changes we are working on will ultimately give our members and patients better service, at a lower cost, and help meet tougher government standards around controlled substances," he said in his statements to Becker's Hospital Review.

8. Mr. Nelson also noted Kaiser is adding jobs overall and had more than 12,000 open staff positions and hundreds of physician positions open as of April 27.

9. News of the planned protests follows a roughly year-long negotiation period between Kaiser and unions representing pharmacy warehouse workers. Mr. Nelson said Kaiser and union representatives have specifically worked on how to address current and future regulatory, technological and efficiency challenges.

10. Mr. Nelson said Kaiser aims to make every reasonable effort to redeploy affected workers within the organization. If retention is not possible, he said affected employees have access to tools and assistance, including up to one year of salary and benefits equal to the affected employees' then-current pay. "We can't say exactly what will happen in this case, because we have not completed discussions with union leadership, but we can tell you that in past cases we have demonstrated our ability to successfully redeploy the vast majority of affected employees," he added.


More articles on human capital: 

24k U of California hospital, college workers to strike May 7-9
Pennsylvania hospitals block nurses from returning to work after strike
Nurses at 2 Pennsylvania hospitals to hold one-day strike: 7 things to know

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