After months of negotiations, the 52,000 members of the Alliance of Healthcare Unions, which includes the 3,400 Kaiser employees of Oregon and Southwest Washington who are represented by the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), have reached a tentative agreement. Among the various pieces of the contract, workers pushed back on Kaiser’s “two-tier” wage proposal and won good wage increases, racial justice language, and language to address the staffing crisis.
“The pressure our members, including leaders and community, put on Kaiser and the threat of a strike worked and moved Kaiser leadership to do the right thing and settle a proposal that will improve care for the entire community ,” says Jodi Barschow, a Kaiser Sunnyside RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT, AFL-CIO (OFNHP Local 5017), the union that represents Kaiser workers in Oregon and Washington. “We look forward to supporting our patients and working with Kaiser to improve care across the country.”
Because of our pressure we defeated Kaiser’s dangerous “two tier” wage proposal, which would have paid incoming frontline healthcare workers much less than their peers. Our victories include higher wages and wage scale improvements, racial justice improvements, and a staffing committee that will begin to tackle the understaffing crisis at Kaiser. Each of our bargaining units have additional language themselves, which will help to improve conditions at Kaiser. This is a step in our continuing fight for safe staffing and healthcare justice by organizing in our worksites and in our communities.
The strike had been authorized by 96% of OFNHP members based in Oregon and Southwest Washington, including RNs, Pros, and Lab Professionals. The staffing crisis has affected all healthcare industries, yet has been an issue these workers say that they have faced for many years. This is simply a first step to addressing these issues, which workers will continue to organize around so that we can provide the best possible care for our patients.
“Today, patient care won out over profit and greed,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “While the members must have their say on ratification, this tentative national and local agreement shows Kaiser finally understood the solidarity and determination of our members to secure what was needed to ensure patient and health care worker wellbeing. It shifted the paradigm from concession bargaining to a constructive negotiation. It invests in safe staffing levels, stops two-tier wages and gets workers a much needed raise. And it builds on rather than frays the commitment to labor-management partnership. We honor the workers’ fight as a demonstration, once again, that together we can achieve what would be impossible alone."
Now that the tentative agreement has been reached, both locally and nationally, our members will need to vote on the contract. Those ratification votes will begin in the coming days after information sessions to allow every member to know what is in the new agreement.