Kaiser Permanente management and its Washington staffers have agreed on a tentative contract after months of negotiations, avoiding the strike that was set to start at the beginning of November if a deal hadn’t been reached.
The new four-year contract still has yet to be voted on by the state’s roughly 3,000 Kaiser workers, according to a Monday statement from SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, which represents the staffers. Voting begins Wednesday, a day after the current contract expires.
The labor union shared few details about the deal “out of respect for the ratification vote process,” but said it “complements” the tentative national agreement reached earlier this month.
Kaiser’s last local contract was ratified in 2019, and nurses, medical assistants, technicians, social workers and other staffers say they’re feeling strained from working through a pandemic without any raises or changes in benefits.
The new agreement would offer local Kaiser workers “competitive wages, excellent benefits, generous retirement income plans, and valuable job training opportunities that support their economic well-being, advance our shared mission, and keep Kaiser Permanente a best place to work and receive care,” the SEIU statement said.
Kaiser spokesperson Linnae Riesen confirmed the contract news Monday afternoon and shared the same statement as SEIU.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which includes workers in California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, D.C., has represented staffers in national contract negotiations, and finished bargaining in mid-October.
The national tentative deal was reached after a three-day strike, involving about 75,000 workers throughout the country, including some in Southwest Washington who are a part of a local union separate from SEIU. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is still voting on the national contract.
Prior to this week’s news of the tentative agreement, the rest of Washington’s Kaiser staffers had also voted to go on strike for the first eight days of November if a deal wasn’t reached by October 31.
“Striking is absolutely the last resort, but an action we’re willing to take to protect Washington health care workers and patients,” Jane Hopkins, president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, said in a statement in mid-October. “We are calling Kaiser Permanente executives to reach a deal on time to avert a strike.”
Now, the previous strike notice is off the table, as local Kaiser staffers join workers in other parts of the country in voting on whether or not to ratify the contract.
Details about how long voting would be open were not immediately available.