Kaiser Permanente workers protest planned job cuts; 13 union activists arrested

Unionized healthcare workers and their supporters protested Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente on Labor Day over planned job cuts, according to CBS Los Angeles.

The workers, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West, marched to Kaiser Permanente Downey (Calif.) Medical Center, where they rallied. Police confirmed 13 union activists were arrested outside the medical center in the protest, but did not provide details, according to the report. Kaiser Permanente employees and their supporters also marched and protested at Kaiser Permanente Oakland (Calif.) Medical Center.

Union officials said in a news release that workers were protesting job cuts they believe would harm patient care. These cuts include outsourcing 70 pharmacy warehouse workers in Downey, 34 couriers at a laboratory in North Hollywood, Calif., 43 licensed vocational nurses in San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro, Santa Clara and Walnut Creek, Calif., and 96 pharmacy warehouse workers in Oakland and Livermore, Calif.

Additionally, union officials claim Kaiser Permanente plans to move 742 jobs from call centers in Hollywood, Baldwin Park and Woodland Hills to other areas of California, as well as close a skilled nursing facility in Manteca, Calif., effective Oct. 31.

"Kaiser has been outsourcing our jobs to people who aren't invested the way we are. I love what I do, and I'm good at it," said Jesse Felix, a seven-year Kaiser Permanente employee in Chino Hills, Calif.

In a statement to Becker's, John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser Permanente, took issue with the union's claims.

"The truth is Kaiser Permanente is growing and adding jobs. As one of the largest private employers in California with more than 149,000 employees and 16,000 physicians, we have added more than 13,000 jobs in the state since 2015. We have more than 12,000 open staff positions and will continue to add many kinds of jobs, including blue-collar jobs. The number of our employees represented by SEIU-UHW has grown by more than 8,000 over the same period," he wrote.

"We are disappointed that the current leadership of SEIU-UHW has chosen to mischaracterize Kaiser Permanente's strong commitment to labor and to pursue an adversarial, destructive approach."

As far as the union's claims about pharmacy operations, he said Kaiser Permanente worked with SEIU-UHW for more than a year to transition its internal pharmacy warehouse operations to an existing service provided by UPS Supply Chain Solutions. Mr. Nelson said it is a necessary move "to address the many regulatory, technical and efficiency challenges we face now and in the future."

"What's important is that we never make decisions like this lightly. We don't know of any other employer who offers more generous support to employees who are affected by job changes: We try to retrain and reassign our people first, and if that isn't feasible, we provide them up to one year of salary and benefits," he wrote.

Mr. Nelson also disputed the union's claims about outsourcing 43 vocational nurses in the Bay Area and nursing homes in Valley House and Manteca, Calif., calling the union "inaccurate in its portrayal of the impact to our LVNs."

"In fact, Kaiser Permanente does not even have a skilled nursing facility in Santa Clara," Mr. Nelson said. "We want employees affected by changes to continue to be part of Kaiser Permanente and will provide assistance and help identify other positions for them within the organization."

SEIU-UHW represents more than 55,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in California. Their current contract expires Sept. 30.


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