Kaiser Permanente Washington workers approve new 4-year contract

Covers 3,000 workers in state, including Kent Medical Center; pay hikes of 17% to 25% in next year

The Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Kaiser Permanente

The Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente Washington (KPWA) health care workers overwhelmingly voted to ratify the new four-year contract negotiated between Kent-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW and Kaiser.

The agreement brings much-needed wage increases and other important victories to 3,000 workers across the state, according to a Nov. 9 union media release.

That employee group includes workers at Kaiser’s Kent Medical Center, 26004 104th Ave. SE. Kaiser also has medical centers in Renton and Federal Way.

A tentative agreement was reached Oct. 31, five days before KPWA workers planned to begin a statewide strike, and came two weeks after the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions - which includes SEIU Healthcare 1199NW - reached an agreement for a new contract for Kaiser workers nationally, which has been ratified as well. Both the national agreement and the newly ratified state agreement will apply to KPWA workers.

“This new contract with Kaiser Washington is a win for both health care workers and patients,” said Jane Hopkins, registered nurse and president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, in the media release. “Our strength and solidarity as a union of health care workers, as well as overwhelming support from the community - our patients - moved Kaiser Permanente management toward doing the right thing. We’re confident these historic wins will improve access to quality care for patients, and allow Kaiser to begin addressing the staff recruitment and retention crisis.”

Combined with the underlying wage increases won in the national contract, every Washington Kaiser worker will see a 17% to 25% wage increase in the next 12 months, and between a 27% to 35% wage increase by the end of the contract, according to the union. Both contracts will expire Sept. 30, 2027.

“Frontline health care workers told Kaiser executives that competitive wages that keep up with other Washington health care providers were key to addressing the staffing shortage at Kaiser facilities,” said Alanna Martin, a clinical social worker in Seattle and a member leader on the bargaining team. “These wage increases are significant, and they were necessary for Kaiser to catch up with the market and keep up with staff recruitment and retention.”

Specific increases include, in combination with the national agreement, a 30% total raise for registered nurses, licenses practical nurses and most techs; 27% for advanced registered nurse practitioners, and a 35% increase for environment service workers who help keep facilities clean, free of infection and safe for patients but have seen a long stagnation in wages, according to the union.

“These agreements will help ensure we remain a best place to work and receive care,” according to a Nov. 9 email from a Kaiser spokesperson. “The employees are represented by 11 local unions in nearly every Kaiser Permanente market.”

The national agreement is effective Oct. 1, 2023, through Sept. 30, 2027, according to Kaiser. It includes annual wage increases, new minimum wages, and a redesigned Performance Sharing Plan. The agreement also addresses other top priorities such as staffing, additional opportunities for employee education and career development and more.

“We will begin implementing the national contract immediately,” according to Kaiser. “We look forward to working together through the Labor Management Partnership to advance our mission of providing high-quality, affordable health care services and improving the health of our members and the communities we serve.”

Additionally, the new contract addresses racial justice and workplace equity concerns raised by workers, many of whom are BIPOC and immigrant workers, and have faced discrimination in their workplaces, according to the union.

“A lot of hard work went into these historic agreements, but I am confident this deal will help retain and recruit the best staff from across our state,” said Marie Neumayer, a medical assistant in Spokane, member leader on the local and national bargaining teams, and rank-and-file vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “We couldn’t have achieved them without the power of both union solidarity and solidarity and support from patients across Washington.”

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, whose headquarters is in Kent, is a union of nurses and health care workers with over 31,000 caregivers throughout hospitals, clinics, mental health, skilled home health and hospice programs in Washington state and Montana.

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