Kaiser Permanente

Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr

Denver City Council members have expressed concerns to Kaiser Permanente over a potential strike of its 3,600 Colorado employees.

A coalition of labor unions in Colorado and seven other states has threatened the strike, alleging that Kaiser committed unfair labor practices, said a news release from the organized workers.

Specifically, Kaiser is being accused of outsourcing jobs, raising premiums, trying to lower workers' wages and failing to provide care to Medicaid patients despite claiming to do so, all while the company made more than $5.2 billion in profits during the first half of 2019.

A Sept. 6 letter from the Denver City Council to Kaiser's president noted concern for the government employees who use the company for their health insurance. 

The letter, signed by 12 of the 13 council members, asks about the strike's potential for labor disruptions and how that will affect Colorado's government employees, as well as other patients.

"We sincerely hope that Kaiser will find its way back to the values that made it the health plan of choice for the progressive community," the letter states. "Until then, we will stand with Kaiser employees and educate our members about their struggle to protect quality patient care and good jobs in our communities."

The council's letter was a tactic to pressure Kaiser during the negotiations led by the Service Employees International Union, said Kaiser Permanente Colorado spokeswoman Amy Whited.

"This letter is part of a coordinated SEIU corporate campaign aimed at bringing negative attention to Kaiser Permanente during a period where we are actively engaged in contract discussions," Whited said.

Kaiser recently offered the coalition 1% guaranteed wage increases in 2019 and 2% the following three years, as well as a $40 million investment in new positions, Whited said. It also preserves retirement benefits and offers programs to employees for tuition reimbursement and pharmacy rewards.

Whited said the demands being made of Kaiser are "not fair to our members and the communities we serve," as that union employees in Colorado are compensated 23% above market rates on average.

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