It took six rounds of difficult bargaining and nearly five months, but members of the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU) last week notched a contract win, ratifying an agreement that increases wages, improves benefits and assures them a voice in their workplaces.
There are some 48,000 members of the AHCU, including nearly 7,300 members of Local 7600, which represents workers in more than 100 Kaiser Permanente facilities across Southern California.
“Every member of the Alliance of Health Care Unions worked incredibly hard and stayed unified and focused,” said Mandy Hartz, USW health care coordinator. “That’s how we were able to walk away with a win.”
Local 7600 President Valery Robinson said that the Alliance’s huge July 8 rally and other solidarity actions were a crucial part of getting a good contract.
“We had 2,500 union members turn out for our rally in Costa Mesa in July, including 500 USW members,” Robinson said. “And our solidarity didn’t stop there.”
After the rally, alliance members distributed buttons and stickers, and established “union color days” where they each wore the colors of their union every Tuesday. They also gathered tens of thousands of signatures on cards and petitions to management, calling for a fair contract.
Bargaining ended with a marathon six-day session that resulted in a contract that included not just strong health care benefits and across-the-board wage raises but also other key priorities, like increased contributions to funding for further education and language that protects workers from last-minute cancellations of their shifts.
Protecting Labor Management Partnership
Maintaining Kaiser’s Labor Management Partnership was another big goal that the contract achieved, said Robinson.
In March, Local 7600 left its previous coalition and, with seven other like-minded unions, formed the AHCU, which represents workers in hundreds of job classifications in nearly every geographic area Kaiser has a presence.
As bargaining got underway the committee wanted to ensure Kaiser’s commitment to their Labor Management Partnership, even though the labor side of the partnership had shifted.
“It was really important that Kaiser committed to improving the partnership,” Robinson said. “Kaiser puts money into a trust fund, and it allows us to do things like our service work and trainings. It also funds our committees so that front-line workers have a chance to be involved in making decisions on how their jobs are run.”