Kaiser Permanente may be near a deal with breakaway union group

A recently formed breakaway coalition of unions may be near its first national contract with Kaiser Permanente.

The coalition, known as the Alliance of Health Care Unions (ACHU), formed March 26 when 22 local unions left the existing Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU) over differences with its largest member, SEIU United Healthcare West. On June 13, another union left CKPU to join ACHU: UNITE HERE Local 5, which represents about 2,000 Kaiser employees in Hawaii. That brought  the ACHU coalition to a total of about 47,000 members in 23 local unions: They are local affiliates of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals-American Federation of Teachers, Teamsters, AFSCME, Operating Engineers, United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, United Steel Workers, and United Nurses Association of California. CKPU meanwhile represents 68,700 members of 12 locals of the Service Employees and Office and Professional Employees unions.

Kaiser Permanente quickly recognized ACHU, and on May 22 the two sides came to agreement on a Labor Management Partnership Agreement substantially similar to the one Kaiser has had with CKPU since 1997. 

Since then, Kaiser and ACHU have held three rounds of contract bargaining, with another round scheduled July 8 and 9.

UFCW Healthcare Division Director Nate Bernstein said the goal is to finish by July 9 if a good agreement can be achieved. The ACHU has been pushing for  wage increases, improved health benefits for retired and  active members, and maintenance of retirement benefits, he said.

The national agreement covers core economic items, and is supplemented by local agreements. Bargaining on the local agreements would continue after a national agreement is reached, with a goal of having new agreements in place before the existing ones begin to expire Sept. 30, 2018.

Bargaining between Kaiser and the CKPU has yet to begin.

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