Kaiser Nurses Ratify New Contract That Raises Wages by 22.5% And Improves Staffing

About two weeks ago, California Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement with Kaiser Permanente, averting what would have been the biggest private sector nurses strike in American history. On Monday, the union announced that its nurses voted to ratify a new four-year contract — one that includes provisions for a significant wage increase, improved staffing and more.

California Nurses Association represents about 22,000 nurses at 22 Kaiser facilities. 

The averted strike would have involved about 21,000 nurses and nurse practitioners at 21 Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California. These nurses had been in negotiations since June. The strike would have also involved about 1,000 nurses at Kaiser’s medical center in Los Angeles. They joined their Northern California nurse colleagues in September.

The new contract’s provisions to retain experienced nurses and hire new ones is expected to provide much-needed relief for nurses amid staffing shortages, according to Cathy Kennedy, who is the president of the California Nurses Association and a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser’s medical center in Roseville. 

“We are so happy that this contract adds more than 2,000 positions across our Northern California facilities,” she said in a statement sent to MedCity News. “That is amazing and will improve staffing greatly.”

In an interview last month, Kennedy called the contract a “huge win” for Kaiser’s nurses. 

Under the contract, Kaiser is increasing wages for its Northern California nurses by 22.5% over four years. This wage growth “is driven by the changing economy, including inflation, significant changes in the marketplace and our commitment to providing our employees with excellent pay and benefits to attract and retain the best nurses,” according to the health system.

Kaiser also agreed to increase tuition reimbursement for nurses’ continuing education, maintain a three-month stockpile of personal protective equipment, and scale workplace violence prevention plans to all facilities.

The contract’s patient-first language and provisions for equity are significant as well.

The ratified contract asserts that healthcare is a human right, Kennedy pointed out. It also states that the U.S. healthcare system must eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in patient outcomes, promote culturally competent care delivery, and expand the diversity of its workforce.

Kaiser has promised to create a new regional committee for equity, diversity and inclusion at each facility. These committees will be composed of two nurses from each facility, and they will “bring nurses to the table” to address systematic racism within the healthcare system, Kennedy explained.

When the new contract was put on the table last week, Kaiser said it was “proud of the work our nurses do and we are making sure Kaiser Permanente continues to be the best place to work for our valued nurses.”

Nurses at Kaiser’s Los Angeles medical center ratified a new contract on November 22. For the Northern California nurses, voting began on November 22 and concluded on December 2.

The contract’s ratification comes about six weeks after another swath of Kaiser’s Northern California employees approved a four-year contract of their own — that time, it was about 1,600 mental health workers. Their approval followed a 10-week strike.

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