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Biden praises Kaiser Permanente agreement: ‘Collective bargaining works’

Healthcare workers strike in front of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, as more than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers go on strike from October 4 to 7 across the United States, in Los Angeles, California, October 4, 2023.

Aude Guerrucci | Reuters

More than 85,000 health workers reached a tentative labor agreement with Kaiser Permanente on Friday that will avoid more strikes after the Biden administration intervened in the negotiations.

President Joe Biden praised the health workers and reiterated his support for organized labor in a statement Friday.

“Health care workers and support staff kept our hospitals – and our nation– going during the dark months of the pandemic,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “They had our backs during one of our nation’s toughest times. We must continue to have theirs.”

“I always say that collective bargaining works,” Biden said. “It works for UPS drivers and dock workers, writers, and millions of American workers who exercise their right to participate in a union.”

Biden has touted himself as the most pro-union president in American history. He recently joined the picket line in Detroit to support the United Auto Workers in their strike against Ford Motor, General Motors and Stellantis.

Tens of thousands of health workers walked out of Kaiser hospitals and facilities last week to protest short staffing and demand better pay. The strike lasted three days in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state. The walkout was said to be the largest health-care worker strike in U.S. history.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions had threatened additional strikes if management did not meet their demands, particularly over short staffing and the outsourcing of jobs.

Julie Su, acting labor secretary, arrives to testify during the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Department of Labor,” in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The union coalition and Kaiser executives met for bargaining sessions this week. The sides reached a tentative labor contract to avoid further strikes after the intervention of acting Labor Secretary Julie Su.

The agreement includes a 21% pay hike over four years, a minimum wage of $25 in California and $23 in other states, protections against outsourcing, and numerous investments to address short staffing.

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Su flew to California on Thursday evening to help facilitate the deal, according to the union coalition. Sarah Levesque, secretary-treasurer of OPEIU Local 2, said Su was instrumental in brokering the deal.

“We’re incredibly grateful to acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su and the Biden administration for supporting workers’ right to collective bargaining,” Levesque said.

Biden also praised Su’s role, “She continues to play an integral role helping my administration and workers across this country build an economy that works for everyone,” the president said.

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