OAKLAND, Calif. — A coalition of unions representing Kaiser Permanente health care workers in the nation’s largest private sector talks this year have ratified a landmark agreement that includes a jointly developed flu vaccination policy for health care workers who deal directly with patients.
Workers will get a seasonal flu vaccination or wear a surgical mask during flu season while working in patient-care areas under the negotiated policy, which takes on an important issue of public health and safety by protecting more than 10 million Kaiser Permanente health plan members and patients, and the workers who provide care and service every day.
“In this landmark contract, we have reached an agreement on a national policy of frontline caregivers protecting themselves, their families and our members from the flu by receiving a flu shot,” said Dennis Dabney, senior vice president, National Labor Relations and Office of the Labor Management Partnership at Kaiser Permanente. “When managers and employees make improvements together, it’s a winning solution.”
Hal Ruddick, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and lead negotiator for the federation of 28 union locals, said, “We’re standing up to protect patients, workers and families from the flu virus, which kills thousands of people every year.”
Ruddick said that Kaiser Permanente and the unions, which represent 105,000 Kaiser Permanente workers across the country, began negotiations early in the year with mutual commitments to patient and worker health and safety.
“We reviewed the science and consulted our values, and concluded that taking a bold step to fight flu infection was the right thing to do,” Ruddick said.
The unions and the nation’s largest integrated health plan and health care provider capped the talks with the most comprehensive contract yet in the 18-year history of their Labor Management Partnership. The three-year agreement — including the flu vaccination policy — goes into effect on October 1, 2015.
Teams of union workers and their managers have already set high standards for patient care and service by co-leading successful projects such as encouraging hand-washing and other hygienic practices, and educating employees and patients alike about the importance of preventive care. Following a tradition of convenient and accessible preventive care, Kaiser Permanente offers flu shots free of charge to employees and members and opens special seasonal clinics to reach as many people as possible.
In addition to ensuring the best care, the Coalition unions and Kaiser Permanente have negotiated an industry-leading contract that:
- Provides competitive wages and benefits that allow the people who take care of Kaiser Permanente patients at work to also take good care of their families at home.
- Expands the groundbreaking 2012 worker wellness program with new employee incentives to screen for cancer and for risk of diabetes, which can otherwise lead to costly and devastating complications.
- Fosters collaborative environments allowing each worker a voice in preparing for the future of health care.
The agreement covers Coalition-union represented workers in seven states and the District of Columbia, including nurses, medical assistants, custodial, maintenance and food service workers, lab technicians and scientists, and clerical staff. The local unions are affiliated with major internationals such as the Service Employees International Union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and United Food and Commercial Workers. The Coalition unions represent: 81,000 Kaiser Permanente workers in California; 8,500 in Oregon and Washington; 5,000 in Colorado; 5,500 in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia; 1,800 in Georgia; and 800 in Hawaii.
Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions created its Labor Management Partnership in 1997 to develop and support innovative ways of improving patient care, affordability and the work environment. Since then, the Coalition unions and Kaiser Permanente have successfully negotiated five national labor contracts in the highly competitive health care industry. The collaboration has strengthened worker engagement and participation and has helped Kaiser Permanente garner recognition for clinical quality, patient safety and member satisfaction from U.S. News and World Report, the National Committee for Quality Assurance and others.
About the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, AFL-CIO, is a federation of 28 union locals from 11 international unions representing more than 105,000 Kaiser Permanente workers. The Coalition formed in 1996 to coordinate the unions’ bargaining strategies with Kaiser Permanente. With Kaiser Permanente, the Coalition has formed the largest and longest-lasting Labor Management Partnership in the United States. For more information, go to: unioncoalition.org
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 10 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.