Local 7600 continues fight for fair contract, prepares for potential strike

Action is picking up steam for more than 7,400 health care workers and members of USW Local 7600, who work across 72 Kaiser Permanente locations in Southern California. As their fight continues for a fair contract that reflects their service and prioritizes safe staffing, the local decided last week to schedule a strike authorization vote to be held October 2-10.

“With demands that would negatively impact worker safety and patient care, it’s clear that management is more concerned with pursuing its own agenda than it is about workers and patients,” said Local 7600 President Michael Barnett.

“We urge Kaiser Permanente to come to the table and bargain with us for a fair contract rather than force workers into a labor dispute by insisting on dangerous cost-cutting measures that would make it impossible to maintain safe staffing levels.”

USW Local 7600, in conjunction with the 20 other local unions who make up the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU), has been bargaining with Kaiser Permanente since this past spring. Both the national and local agreements expire Sept. 30.

The health care system’s most divisive demands include a two-tiered wage scale that would pay new hires significantly less for doing the same jobs as current workers, making it even more difficult to fill empty positions.

The paltry wage increases that the company has proposed for current members of the union also do nothing to address the tremendous pay disparity between Inland Empire workers, many of whom are Black, Latino, and other people of color, and their area counterparts in Los Angeles just a few miles away.

“We keep hearing Kaiser talk on TV and to politicians about racial justice, but when the joint recommendations came up for approval, Kaiser execs said no,” said Local 7600 Vice President Norberto Gomez in a recent AHCU social media post. “It’s time for Kaiser to not just talk about but be about it.”

The decision to hold the vote that would authorize the local’s bargaining committee to initiate a strike comes after the union decided to pause their labor-management partnership with Kaiser last Friday over these and other concerns, including safe staffing.

“We’re stretched thin, and after more than a year and a half of sacrifices throughout the pandemic, morale is starting to falter,” said Barnett. “We’ve pulled together to make sure that shifts are covered and our patients are well cared for, sometimes at the expense of our own health and security. But we need management to take safe staffing seriously, and we need them to prioritize our community as much as we do.”

The local is also pursuing multiple unfair labor practice charges after management threatened to withhold or cancel vacations and other earned time off until the contract is settled, as well as intimidated workers who wore union t-shirts during what they’ve dubbed “Solidarity Tuesdays” to show their support for the bargaining committee.

Click here to follow the local’s campaign on Facebook and stay updated on their fight.

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