After three years of fighting over unequal wage problems in Kaiser Permanente’s Vision Essential department, the workers have finally reached an amazing victory that will change the lives of the employees inside.
On Tuesday, March 2nd, the employees in Vision Essentials won an agreement from management to eliminate the “Optician 1” job description and map ten employees over to the higher wage scales starting April 1. The Optician 1 position was created to give riffed ESS a pathway into skilled tech jobs, but getting paid on average $6/hr less than other opticians doing the same work. It was intended as a job ladder for those ESS, but management manipulated the purpose of the new job classification and required new employees on that scale to have equal skill and credentials even though they had dubbed it entry level.
Jennifer Burton made a noticeable impact on the mediator by pointing out that the wage disparity imposed by management is actually wage theft. Michael Hawkins and Jerry Lemmons who accompanied Burton at the table have spoken out against the abuse of the “job ladder” noting that it was made obsolete once all of the former ess had proven their skills in the new jobs.
Lemmons and Burton shared the joy of calling each of their impacted members to give them the good news. When Burton called Central Interstate Vision Essentials, the entire team was listening on speaker phone and cheered for their impacted co-workers.
This was an emotionally powerful experience, one that reminds us of the core value of our union. When we come together to fight as one, we are able to change people's lives. Let’s remember this victory when we head into bargaining so that we can keep up the battle to improve our workplaces.