Kaiser and unions will try national bargaining

Kaiser Permanente and the unions that represent more than 60,000 workers nationwide have agreed to try national bargaining for the first time in the health maintenance organization's history, reported Kathy Schmidt, president of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5017, which represents nurses at Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital. Local 5017 is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon.

Under the new "United Bargaining" process, unions will negotiate together at one national table. As those negotiations proceed, local unions will begin their own independent bargaining over local issues of concern.

Once local and national negotiations are completed, members of the unions will each vote (as they do now) on a single package that includes the tentative national agreement and the tentative local agreement.

If either the local or national negotiations fall apart, either the employer or any of the unions may withdraw from the process and revert to the old bargaining method.

Current contracts will remain in place until a new national contract is ratified.

More than 300 union representatives from across the country have been meeting in Oakland, Calif., to write a United Bargaining plan.

"It was time to work together to try to minimize the instability and stress caused for union members when locals each negotiate contracts separately," Schmidt said. "We also wanted to put an end to divide-and-conquer tactics by managers."

Local unions and their members are now in the process of reviewing the United Bargaining proposal and will vote individually on whether or not to proceed with it.

Schmidt said a committee of union leaders and managers will meet shortly to see if they can agree on topics - such as wages, benefits, job security and pension - to be negotiated. If the parties can agree on which topics can be negotiated, talks will begin. If not, the process will stop immediately. After two months of negotiations, if it appears agreement can occur, union locals with members at Kaiser Permanente will begin negotiating on their own issues - at separate bargaining tables.

If tentative agreement is reached at both the national and local bargaining tables, both agreements will be submitted to members of local unions for a local ratification votes. If agreements cannot be reached, the process will end and bargaining will revert to the old structure.

All current contracts will remain in place until members of each local union vote to accept a new agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the unions have pledged to continue to work together and support each other as pacts expire over the next 18 months.

March 3, 2000 issue

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