Service Employees strike Kaiser

PORTLAND, OR -- Some 2,000 members of Portland-based Service Employees Local 49 walked off the job at Kaiser Permanente Sept. 2 in a dispute over health care benefits.

Licensed practical nurses, medical and dental assistants, home health aides, cooks, housekeepers, couriers, receptionists and a host of others are picketing all Kaiser facilities from Longview, Wash., to Salem, Ore.

It is the second walkout in as many months at the giant health maintenance organization. Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 employed as imaging technicians ended a two-week strike Aug. 18.

"Kaiser is bargaining backwards," said Shelley Herochik, director of field operations for Local 49.

Bargaining unit members at Local 49 already rejected a tentative agreement hours before they were to strike last July.

Herochik said Kaiser is demanding takeaways of $80 a month per member. During a bargaining session called Aug. 28 by a federal mediator, Kaiser moved two cents. "I think our people are worth more than two cents," said Herochik, adding that Kaiser's principal negotiator wasn't even at the table. "It was clear they had no intention of bargaining in good faith," she said. Herochik said Kaiser reinstated a demand for a $20 monthly co-payment on health care premiums, plus it wants new point of service fees for doctor and dental visits and prescriptions.

Kaiser also is demanding that retirees pay as much as 30 percent of their health care premiums. They currently pay nothing.

On top of that, Herochik said, Kaiser wants to reduce its pension contribution from 26 cents to 13 cents an hour and eliminate two sick days and one floating holiday. "The real issue here is corporate greed," she said.

Local 49 is advising Kaiser patients to keep their appointments, and to schedule new ones as necessary. It is also encouraging patients "to demand quality care."

Clarification: In a Kaiser Permanente article in the Aug. 15 issue it was reported that union bargaining units in northern California have not accepted reductions in benefits in contracts with Kaiser. It actually is southern California local unions that have rejected the cost-sharing demands.


Sept. 5, 1997 issue

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