Kaiser Permanente and a coalition of unions representing 75,000 health workers announced Friday they had reached a tentative agreement for a new contract.
The agreement would put an end to an ongoing labor dispute over low wages and staffing shortages that culminated in a three-day strike across multiple states last week, the largest health care worker strike in US history.
“The frontline healthcare workers of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions are excited to have reached a tentative agreement with Kaiser Permanente as of this morning,” the unions said in a statement. “We are thankful for the instrumental support of acting US Labor Secretary Julie Su.”
Kaiser Permanente issued a similar statement, echoing praise for Su.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said it has been fighting since April over staffing levels, wages and outsourcing. The union said Kaiser needs to make larger investments in staffing that could help stem employee turnover and reduce growing patient wait times.
The union was asking for a $25 hourly minimum wage, as well as increases of 7 percent each year in the first two years and 6.25% each year in the two years afterward.
The contracts for hundreds of positions including nurses, radiology and X-ray technicians, clinical laboratory scientists, optometrists and even housekeepers, expired Sept. 30.
The union coalition notified Kaiser earlier this week of another potential strike next month if a deal wasn’t reached by Oct. 31, when the contract for employees in Seattle expired.
Strike lines were set up at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical office buildings across the country last week, including California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, DC.
In a statement, the union said it was protesting unfair labor practices and Kaiser executives’ “failure to bargain in good faith over unsafe staffing levels and outsourcing protections at hundreds of Kaiser hospitals and facilities across the United States.”
The health system said it presented an “enhanced offer” to the unions Oct. 1 that included across-the-board wage increases as well as higher minimum wages.
The company said it had already reached a deal with the union coalition to hire 10,000 new employees by the end of October.