SEIU health workers set to protest potential Kaiser layoffs

Dive Brief:

  • “Thousands of healthcare workers” organized by SEIU-UHW are set to protest from May 1-18 at 33 California hospitals owned by Kaiser Permanente, the union said Friday.  At issue are a variety of announced plans to lay off pharmacy warehouse workers and relocate call center jobs.
  • Kaiser Permanente wrote to Healthcare Dive in an email that the decision to outsource the pharmacy storage and distribution network came after extensive discussions with SEIU-UHW and other unions. The company pointed to the “many regulatory, technological and efficiency challenges we face now and in the future,” as factors that influenced its decision.
  • But Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West argues that the decision is unbecoming of a nonprofit organization that had its profits rise 22% in 2017 with $28 billion in reserves on hand.

Dive Insight:

The protests appear to be the continuation of similar actions earlier this year when SEIU organized protests at 32 hospitals in February and March.

The company recently issued an official notice to lay off 61 pharmacy warehouse workers in Downey, California. According to SEIU-UHW, the company plans to lay off 175 more pharmacy warehouse employees in Oakland, Livermore and Los Angeles and relocate 700 call center jobs to cheaper areas of the state.

The union noted that 55,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in California are members of SEIU-UHW. The national agreement with Kaiser for a broader group of unions expires Sept. 30.

John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser Permanente, called the claims by SEIU-UHW misleading.

“Kaiser Permanente is growing, and we are adding jobs overall. As one of the largest private employers in California with more than 149,000 employees and 16,000 physicians in the state, since 2015, we have added more than 13,000 jobs in California and continue to add jobs with more than 12,000 open staff positions and hundreds of physician positions,” Nelson said in a statement.

It appears that politics may be coming into play. Several elected officials have sent letters including California Democrat Reps. Tony Cardenas, Grace Napolitano, Adam Schiff, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Brad Sherman urging Kaiser Permanente to reconsider its plans.

“It is imperative that Kaiser Permanente continue to flourish by providing quality healthcare to patients while also being a good partner when it comes to job creation which benefits our community,” former California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De León wrote in a letter.


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