SEIU-UHW had secured strike votes to authorize a strike against Kaiser Permanente had a contract not been agreed upon by October 1, 2019.
As a member of SEIU-UHW, I did vote in agreement to strike if Kaiser Permanente and our Union did not settle a contract by October 1, 2019. Our contract is up for negotiation every five years. As a 15 year employee, I’ve felt this pressure and uncertainty before. This post explains why I was prepared to strike. I also share my suggestions should we ever have to prepare to strike in the future.
UPDATE: An agreement was made which put a stop to the strike. Thankfully, we did not have to strike. Our contract, you can read the highlights here, will remain in place for the next five years. A few of the highlights are:
- Job security as Kaiser will not subcontract for various functions including medical coding, which is the department I currently work.
- Experience will be waived for internal employees transferring to other Coalition positions at Kaiser Permanente.
- Workforce development fund which aims to graduate 10,000 licensed and certified caregivers each year for four years.
Why I was prepared to strike
In 2011, When Kaiser Permanente closed the Member Services Call Center in Stockton, CA, I was devastated along with 250 coworkers. I had worked there for 8 years. Without warning, the announcement happened in the afternoon with all the employees gathered around in the center of the call center floor. It was a horrible day. Thankfully, we had a severance package offer and an opportunity to be retrained for other departments. Kaiser Permanente wanted to take away severance packages and the opportunity to be retrained. If my department were to close, I would not be retrained for another Kaiser position. My seniority will not be considered. Thankfully, this will not happen in the current contract.
It’s just one of several reasons I had agreed to strike. This can be a scary time but it doesn’t have to be. I know those who negotiated our contract years ago fought hard for the benefits we have today. I feel it’s my responsibility to honor that fight by not giving in or giving up.
How to prepare for a strike
- It’s important to understand contract negotiations occur every five years. Decisions were made years ago as to what would be negotiated this time around. Kaiser Leadership and our Union Representatives have an enormous responsibility. To minimize stress on our part, it’s helpful to focus on what we can do. I’ve found it comes down to two things; budget and strategy.
- For each day of the strike, we will not be paid. No vacation pay. Definitely no sick time pay. Our Union is anticipating a four day strike resulting in about half of a normal pay check. It will be a sacrifice! Since we now have four pay periods up to the Friday of the strike. Plan to save 10% of each pay check until the strike. Aside from the obvious ways to cut spending, there are additional ways to add to your paycheck now. Immediately, adjust your Federal and State tax withholding. This process will take effect after one pay period. Schedule time to use Education Leave as soon as possible. We are allowed 40 hours of Education Leave per year for courses or programs which we can show proof of completing.
- Strategy. You are not your job. You are more than your job! Use this time to motivate your career. When the Member Services Call Center closed, I knew I didn’t have a foundation to move up in a career. I would have to start over in an entry level position. How many of you have had to start over? Use this time to update your resume, plan your education, and sharpen your networking skills. Turn your fear into motivation!
I know my coworkers are highly skilled and valuable employees. I also know the stress they feel due to a pending strike. I hope this gives you a way to plan for yourself and your future. I’m happy to talk with your more. Leave a comment or a message.