Kaiser’s Northern California nurses vote to ratify four-year contract with big pay raises

Renée C. Byer/rbyer@sacbee.com

Nurses and nurse practitioners at Kaiser Permanente voted overwhelmingly to ratify a four-year labor contract that secured them the biggest wage increases in about 20 years, their union announced Monday.

The California Nurses Association represents more than 21,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners throughout the company’s Northern California operations.

“With this new contract, we will be able to recruit new nurses, retain experienced RNs, and most importantly, provide our patients with improved care,” said CNA President Cathy Kennedy, a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center. “We are so happy that this contract adds more than 2,000 positions across our Northern California facilities. That is amazing and will improve staffing greatly.”

Kaiser and the nurse union had been in talks since June. They announced a tentative contract proposal in mid-November, just a few days before the nurses were set to strike. The company endured a bruising 10-week strike by its mental health workers earlier this year.

The nurses’ contract includes a 22.5% increase in wages over the four-year term of the agreement.

However, pay was not an issue that nurses categorized as a key sticking point in bargaining. They said they wanted Kaiser to address nurse burnout and health and safety concerns. They wanted the company to address staffing shortages, improve screening of patients for infectious diseases and take additional steps to prevent workplace violence.

The union said the company had agreed to add more than 2,000 RN and nurse practitioner positions, including 1,200 new graduate positions, 400 in specialty training, 300 float pool nurses, 80 acute re-entry nurses, 50 NPs, and 80 outpatient positions.

Kennedy said she was also delighted that the company agreed to take steps to address systemic racism.

“For the first time, our contract includes equity and inclusion provisions and a commitment to a workplace free from racism and discrimination,” Kennedy said. “Under this new agreement, we will create a regional Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee to address systemic racism within the health care system. This is long past due. I am thrilled that Kaiser is committed to a workplace that is free from racism and discrimination and that Kaiser agrees that health care is a human right and that we must end racial disparities in health care.”

In addition to representing nurses at Kaiser facilities in Northern California, CNA also represents roughly 1,000 registered nurses at KP’s Los Angeles Medical Center. They ratified a five-year contract with similar terms Nov. 22.