Hearing on Kaiser, union coalition labor dispute slated for March

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint and scheduled an evidentiary hearing to address allegations filed by a coalition of 11 labor unions against Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, according to a San Gabriel Valley Tribune report.

Labor board officials said Kaiser has until Jan. 11 to file a response, and a hearing to discuss the case before an administrative law judge is slated for March 19 in Oakland.  

The labor board's decision stems from a dispute that began last year.

In March, the coalition split into two groups on the day before negotiations were supposed to begin "due to disagreements among its union members over what partnership means," said John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser.

Some unions remained in the coalition, and others went to a new partnership group called the Alliance of Health Care Unions. Negotiations did not move forward at that time.

Mr. Nelson said the disagreements came after the SEIU-UHW union filed a ballot initiative in California to prohibit health insurers from hiking rates on "covered policies" if the insurer has reserves that are equal to or exceed a specified cap. The initiative was ultimately withdrawn.  

The coalition subsequently filed a complaint with the NLRB, alleging that Kaiser violated federal law by refusing to negotiate a new contract that covers 85,000 employees in seven states and the District of Columbia. The coalition — which includes the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West — is also accusing the healthcare giant of setting negotiating conditions that would prohibit unions from taking political action against Kaiser.

In November, the Alliance of Health Care Union settled a contract with Kaiser that prohibits those unions from taking action against the company through ballot initiatives, legislation or other public campaigns, the coalition said in a news release. Coalition representatives said Kaiser tried to do the same in negotiations with the coalition, but the labor board's recent complaint and notice of hearing prevents that effort. 

The coalition's national agreement with Kaiser expired Sept. 30, and the contract between SEIU-UHW and Kaiser expires in October.


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