This week, 4,000 Kaiser Permanente caregivers with the National Union of Healthcare Workers will be out on picket lines demanding a contract that improves patients’ safe and timely access to care and that leaves workers’ benefits intact. Seventeen thousand Registered Nurses with the California Nurses Association and 2,000 Stationary Engineers will be striking in sympathy with NUHW.
I can vividly imagine the executive response.
Ben Chu, Regional President of Kaiser Permanente, is dining late at an exclusive restaurant–maybe it’s Bazaar or Crustacean, it really doesn’t matter–at compensation of $1.6 million a year, Ben can afford it. His cell phone rings, it’s Bernard Tyson, Chief Operating Officer of Kaiser who’s flying back from New York—with eight separate pension plans and a multi-million dollar annual paycheck, Bernard Tyson could buy everyone in the restaurant dinner without blinking twice.
Bernard wants to conference in George Halvorson, Kaiser’s CEO — with $50 million in total compensation since 2002, George could purchase the restaurant itself, if not a tropical island, with his cumulative Kaiser paycheck.
Ben steps outside to talk to George and Bernard. On this call, these rich, powerful men are talking about me. And thousands of Kaiser healthcare workers just like me.
They are calculating how to eliminate our one, modest defined benefit pension and how to phase out our retiree health coverage entirely. These wealthy men are debating how to raise our health co-pays so that Kaiser’s profit margins increase while our household budgets shrink. And that’s not all.
With hushed voices Ben and George and Bernard move the discussion towards how to reject our modest proposals aimed at addressing serious short-staffing and patient-care issues at Kaiser Permanente. Their goal is to get the public to think that there’s no need to listen to workers’ concerns about patient care at Kaiser.
Kaiser may call itself a “not for profit” but Kaiser’s executives want to cut workers’ benefits like the most ruthless Fortune 500 Company. And, too often at Kaiser, patient care takes a back seat to Kaiser’s bottom line.
While Kaiser banks on the fact that most Californians think that Kaiser is a “nice” and “thriving” company, out here on the picket line shoulder-to-shoulder with two thousand of my co-workers, it’s clear that Kaiser’s executives are trying to get us to roll over, to give up, to break our will.
You see, instead of listening to our suggestions, Kaiser’s executives want us to shut up about our concerns about Kaiser patients’ access to care.
If you see us today on Sunset, or in Fontana, or San Diego, or tomorrow at major medical centers up and down California, please know one thing. We’re Kaiser caregivers, we’re the ones who provide you care, and there’s 23,000 of us out on strike because somebody has to stand up and fight back for the soul of Kaiser Permanente.
If you’re a Kaiser patient, please know that we’re on your side. If you have a second, won’t you join us and send a powerful message to Kaiser’s executives today?