Biggest-Ever Union Rally Boosts Union Negotiators as Bargaining Heads Into Extra Innings

After an unprecedented show of strength by more than 2,500 union members who rallied at national coordinated bargaining, which included more than 500 Local 7600 members, labor and management reached a few tentative agreements, but called for more bargaining on August 28-29 to finalize a new National Agreement.

“On Sunday morning, our members delivered the message that we must secure a fair raise for all, protect our benefits, and get partnership back on track,” said Mark Stewart of UFCW Local 21. “Management heard us, and they will keep hearing from us for the rest of the summer – and into September if necessary. We will not rest until we have a good agreement for every member of our Alliance.”

Record-breaking Rally

More than 2,500 union members – more union members than have ever gathered in the 20-plus years of Partnership bargaining – flooded the ballroom, hallways, and an adjoining ballroom at the Hilton Orange County on a steaming-hot Sunday morning. Music blared, friends greeted each other, and a festive atmosphere of unity prevailed.

“In the 25 years I’ve been with labor, I’ve never seen such a powerful mobilization,” said Denise Duncan of UNAC/UHCP. She called KP’s proposal to allow shifts to be cancelled with as little as two hours’ notice “absolutely unconscionable.” She recalled her years as an RN with previous employers who would cancel shifts two or three times a pay period, leaving coworkers unable to pay bills, and retiring in poverty. “We need to keep up our mobilization to protect our paychecks and our pensions, and we’re going to make sure our families have what they need at the end of each and every pay period!”

The Steelworkers’ Valery Robinson called on Alliance members to “take this rally back to your workplace, stay fired up and focused – all summer long. Keep telling our story and wearing our colors, stickers and buttons on Union Days.” She also cautioned members against falling for rumors or divisive tactics from non-Alliance unions who want to see our members fail. Click here to watch and share her full speech.

Alliance Bargaining Goals

Union members listened and applauded as Alliance speakers presented our Union interests to the management bargaining team, emphasizing that if KP wants to continue to provide industry-leading care, they must also continue to provide industry-leading wages and working conditions – for all Alliance unions.
Bill Rouse of UNAC/UHCP presented Union bargaining interests to the management bargaining team, beginning with building a better Partnership. In a bargaining survey, 76% of UNAC/UHCP members agreed that “I am committed to the LMP.” Rouse respectfully questioned whether management shares our commitment, with only 40% of members saying they had even received LMP training.

Rouse also called on management to honor past agreements. Of greatest concern are the past agreements around staffing and inpatient staffing ratios. He noted that in spite of our clear agreements on outsourcing/insourcing, a senior KP executive recently distributed an email congratulating a subordinate for outsourcing work. “This is a failure of leadership and a failure of sponsorship at a senior level,” he said.

The Alliance called for a solution to the growing part-time workforce. “Managers need more staff, but they can’t get a full-time position approved. They can’t even get a part-time position approved. But they can get a per diem approved,” which must explain why a full one-fifth of Alliance Union members are per diems working more than 1,000 hours a year. “The workers get stuck there, without the full benefits they deserve.”

The Alliance called on KP to continue to pay market-leading wages and to preserve benefits – for all Alliance Unions. KP operates in six of the 10 most expensive areas of the country. In some areas, limited wage increases have meant that workers’ wages have actually fallen in real terms.

A Few Tentative Agreements

There was some progress made during July 8-9 bargaining. The full bargaining committee (CIC) gave consensus to some proposals from the Operations and Partnership subgroups.

The Operations subgroup balanced management concerns around flexibility with union concerns around involving unions in decision-making early in the process. A subgroup proposal got CIC consensus: in regions where there is not an existing framework with established timelines for issues related to flexibility, (the parties will) create an early engagement and timely implementation decision-making framework.

From the Partnership subgroup, consensus was reached on developing a partnership “playbook/operating manual” outlining the “go-to” approach to getting things done; repurposing a group to be called the National LMP Learning Group to develop and update LMP curriculum; and providing all newly hired – as well as newly-organized and newly-accreted – employees with LMP training with 90 days of hire.

To accommodate the local bargaining schedules, national bargaining will reconvene August 28-29. The location is yet to be determined.