CKPU Calls Out Kaiser Spending Billions to Acquire PA Medical Group Instead of Investing in Frontline Workers

May 17, 2023

National Bargaining Session 2 continued our talks on how to address the staffing crisis, discussed Kaiser’s finances and Kaiser’s recent announcement to acquire Geisinger Health and start a new company called Risant.

Kaiser Company & Employee Finances

Most of the second day was on finances: Kaiser’s finances, the finances of the workforce in a time of unprecedented inflation, and the finances of our pension fund.

  • KP Finances. Kaiser CFO Kathy Lancaster and Senior VP Tom Curtin presented the challenges they see ahead in growing the membership, getting proper reimbursement for care, and managing rising expenses. SEIU-UHW President, Dave Regan, presented a counter perspective that emphasized Kaiser’s incredibly strong financial position when viewed over the last five years and highlighted Kaiser’s astounding investment income and management costs, spiraling executive compensation, and skyrocketing payments to expensive outside contractors. Even though Kaiser lost money in 2022, it was an outlier, not the trend. Kaiser reported more than $21 billion in profit over the last five years, and their net worth doubled between 2018 and 2022 to $58.9B. Kaiser isn’t a company that’s struggling.

Inflation is hurting all Kaiser Permanente employees but especially those paid less than $25/hr

  • Employee finances. We also wanted to ensure that Kaiser management understood that they are not the only ones who have to manage a budget. Every Kaiser worker is struggling to adjust their family budget to rising costs of living. Shamefully, Kaiser employs thousands of workers across the country who don’t make a $25/hr living wage. 
  • Pension fund. Some good news that came out of this dialogue was the reporting that the KP pension plan is fully funded for the first time in decades. We also asked for and received a commitment from KP leaders for greater transparency around both our pension fund and our 401K investments.

Why the Geisinger Health Acquisition and the Creation of Risant Matters

We called Kaiser out on the acquisition they announced last month of a Pennsylvania medical group called Geisinger Health and the creation of Risant, a new healthcare company. With the announcement, Kaiser not only failed to discuss this plan with its unions, but we learned that Kaiser’s top leaders at the Medical Group weren’t even involved in the deal!

What’s most frustrating about this is that they’re spending billions buying up companies while saying they can’t afford to raise our wages enough to keep up with inflation. 

Kaiser’s behavior around the Geisinger acquisition has raised critical questions:

1. Is Kaiser going to use California rate increases to pay for the acquisition?
2. Does it plan to start growing a non-union, non-partnership company within Kaiser that will create pressure to lower the standards of living for all of us?
3. If they didn’t talk to their labor partners or even their doctors, what is it they’re trying to hide?

No matter what comes out of the rest of bargaining this round, Coalition union members have to be ready to act until we get the contract and respect we deserve. If Kaiser thinks this is partnership, we need to prove them wrong.

Coalition Addressing the Staffing Crisis

The session began with a report back from the labor-management task force working on getting 10,000 new hires into Coalition vacancies by the end of the year. A timeline for meetings and subgroups was created to address internal delays in the bidding and hiring system, market limitations for harder to fill classifications, collaboration about high-volume hiring opportunities, and providing union leaders in the facilities input into core staffing modules.

Coalition Bargaining Team Knows What We Need to Solve the Staffing Crisis

Our bargaining team is fully committed to solving the staffing crisis by raising healthcare worker pay, including a $25/hr minimum, fixing our broken hiring process, and making a massive investment in education and training. 

Next week, May 22-26, Coalition Unions are having a week of action to show Kaiser execs that we have the backs of our bargaining team members who are bargaining for better staffing. Next National Bargaining will be from June 22-24.