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Approval Guarantees 46,000 Good Jobs in a Sea of Unemployment in California

A majority of members of the largest union of healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente, the Service Employees International Unionย–United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), came out in record numbers to give 94% approval of a new national labor agreement after 10 days of voting across California. The agreement, which will provide three guaranteed 3% pay raises, maintain existing healthcare benefits through 2013 and improve job security, is a stabilizing force in a California economy where unemployment has climbed to 12.4%.

“Given all the bad news affecting California’s workforce, it is good to hear of a group of workers gaining the protections of a collective bargaining agreement, especially at an important employer such as Kaiser,” said John Logan, director of labor studies at San Francisco State University and senior labor policy specialist at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center. The national agreement ultimately covers 96,000 union members at Kaiser in California and several other states. The first to ratify the agreement, SEIU-UHW’s 46,000 members make up half the union members in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which consists of 32 national and local unions. The other unions will be holding ratification votes this summer.

‘Healthcare is not only an essential service for all Californians, it’s a huge economic engine employing one in 10 Californians,’ said Dave Regan, trustee of SEIU-UHW. ‘This agreement is a step in the right direction for California and a stabilizing force in our economy. It upholds high standards at Kaiser Permanente, ensuring quality jobs for tens of thousands of caregivers that will benefit their families, their patients and the communities in which they live and work.’ The agreement has been hailed as a model for the way in which unions can forge positive relationships with the healthcare industry to provide quality care to Californians.

‘This is an amazing achievement of SEIU-UHW caregivers and Kaiser management working together for a common goal,’ said Les Harris, a physical therapist assistant at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center. ‘We want the best for our patients and we want to continue to set the standard in the healthcare industry.’

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