The most recent session of national bargaining was held from April 24 – 26 in Pasadena. As the sessions began, leaders of the five subgroups informed the 140-member Common Issues Committee (CIC) and several hundred observers about their activities at previous negotiating sessions. They educated participants about each issue, and explained mutual interests and options the subgroup developed to address those interests. Four of the five subgroups presented joint recommendations. The fifth subgroup, which focused on the growth of KP and the unions, did not agree on joint recommendations, but presented to the CIC on the substantial progress made in its negotiations. The options explored by the subgroup will likely be discussed by the full CIC.
The recommendations to the CIC covered only the highest-priority, agreed-upon interests and were the result of dozens of hours of meetings, brainstorming, caucusing, and discussion. The subgroups are benefits, growth of KP and the unions, improving and enhancing the Partnership, total health, and workforce of the future. To date, none of the recommendations have been accepted or rejected by the CIC. In accordance with the steps of interest-based bargaining, recommendations to the CIC will not be disclosed at this point in the process.
“We can’t share all the details because it could turn on a dime,” said Joan Mah, a member of IFPTE Local 20 and first-time observer of bargaining. “It is all hearsay until the final words are in the final contract.”
“Sitting here and listening to these reports, I just want us to take stock of what’s been accomplished,” said John August, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. “To see the commitment and the reflection and the development of every single one of the subgroup participants, it’s just astounding.”
“Every time I come to a bargaining session, I’m impressed with how labor and management come together and express themselves and seek solutions in a collaborative fashion,” said Greg Adams, Kaiser Permanente Northern California region president. “It’s one of the most powerful things we do. It’s truly an amazing experience.”
Parties spent the remainder of their time in management and labor caucuses, evaluating each recommendation in anticipation of further discussion with the full CIC at the next bargaining session.
“Our group worked very hard,” said Jean Melnikoff, senior director of human resources for Southern California and a member of the workforce of the future subgroup. “At times it was frustrating, but it was also really interesting to see how the interest-based process really led us to options we could work with.”
“Things went well in our group and management understood our interests very clearly,” said Tamara Rubyn of OPEIU Local 29 and a member of the benefits subgroup. “Kaiser brought high level decision makers to the table, and that helped get things done.”
In order to make the national bargaining process transparent, hundreds of observers attend each bargaining session. They are then able to go back to their co-workers and explain how interest-based bargaining works and how the negotiations are progressing.
“It’s a good experience,” said Julio Rivera, a member of SEIU-UHW and growth subgroup observer. “We’re reaching out to management to help them understand where we’re coming from. That makes a great communication and helps enhance the growth of Kaiser and the unions. We can express what is on our minds and in our hearts for our members and for Kaiser.”
“It’s extremely informative and truly collaborative,” said Deirdre Kirkwood, a UNAC/UHCP member and bargaining observer. “I am so glad we get to do it. It’s the way it should be for everyone who works for a living.”
The next bargaining session takes place on May 8 – 10 in Los Angeles. For more information, see www.bargaining2012.org.