More than 21,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners at 21 of Kaiser’s Northern California facilities planned to begin a two-day strike next Monday. These nurses and nurses have been in negotiations since June. In September, about 1,000 nurses at Kaiser Medical Center in Los Angeles joined their fellow nurses in Northern California.
Union members who work at Kaiser facilities in Northern California will vote to ratify the new contract over the new contract in the next few weeks. Nurses who work at Kaiser Medical Center in Los Angeles also reached a tentative agreement that they will vote on next Tuesday.
The new four-year contract is a “huge win” for Kaiser nurses, according to Kathy Kennedy, who is president of the California Nurses Association and a neonatal intensive care unit nurse at Kaiser Medical Center in Roseville.
The new four-year contract gives Kaiser nurses a “great” economic package that adjusts for inflation, Kennedy said in an interview.
Kaiser is increasing the wages of its Northern California nurses by 22.5% over the life of the contract. This agreement “is driven by the changing economy, including inflation, significant changes in the marketplace, and our commitment to providing our employees with excellent pay and benefits to attract and retain the best nurses,” Kaiser said in a statement shared with MedCity News.
To provide relief for nurses amid staffing shortages, the contract promises to increase the number of Kaiser nurses in Northern California by more than 2,000 more nurses. In addition, the agreement increases tuition reimbursement for continuing education for nurses, provides assurance that Kaiser will maintain a three-month supply of personal protective equipment and expands workplace violence prevention plans to all facilities.
Kennedy also noted the importance of the agreement’s fairness and inclusion provisions, as well as its patient-first language.
Under the new contract, Kaiser will create a new regional equity, diversity and inclusion committee made up of two nurses from each facility. According to Kennedy, the commission will “bring nurses to the table” to address systemic racism in the health care system.
She welcomed the agreement’s patient-first wording, which included the statement that health care is a human right. The compact also states that racial and ethnic disparities in health care outcomes must be ended, culturally competent care delivery must be promoted, and the diversity of the nation’s health care workforce must be expanded.
The health system said it is “proud of the work our nurses do, and we are committed to ensuring that Kaiser Permanente continues to be the best place to work for our valued nurses.”
The agreement coming in less than a month after Kaiser mental health workers in Northern California approved a four-year contract after a 10-week strike.
Photo: flickr user Ted Eitan