What Does Bargaining Mean and How Does It Work

What is a collective bargaining agreement?

A collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or a contract, is a legally binding document between Kaiser Permanente (KP) and us, the union. Our agreement sets our conditions of employment and lasts a set time period. Conditions of employment include our pay, benefits, hours, holidays, PSP, Life Balance, paid time off, Ben Hudnall benefits, safety, employment security, and protections against unfair treatment or discharge.

Why is having a contract important?

Bargaining a contract is the best way to ensure we have a strong and united voice. Our contract provides far more protections than state and federal laws. It clearly states the terms and conditions of employment and lays out the rules and procedures management must follow in relation to bargaining unit members, in this case all USW 7600 members. It also means our employer cannot just change the rules, cut wages and benefits, fire employees without just cause, play favorites, change schedules and holidays, or make other changes that can harm us.

With our collective bargaining agreement, we not only guarantee that we have a real say in our workplace, but we also have grievance and arbitration procedures that protect us from violations and allow us to hold Kaiser accountable when they’ve broken our contract.

Basically, bargaining gives us the chance to use our union strength and to have our priorities guaranteed in writing!

When does our contract expire?

Both our National and Local Agreements expire on September 30, 2021. Before they expire, our bargaining committee will begin negotiating our next contract.

How do negotiations work?

Collective bargaining, also called contract negotiations, is when we as workers come together to negotiate workplace matters with our employer. Negotiations take place at both the national and local bargaining tables. Our bargaining committee and KP schedule blocks of time to meet and discuss our contract during these bargaining ses-sions.  During bargaining, both sides caucus (meet separately), make counter proposals, test out ideas and look for ways to bridge differences.

By bargaining our national agreement to-gether as the Alliance, we have more power to negotiate favorable terms. We ensure every local and every member’s voice is heard on broader issues, while maintaining the ability to address our specific issues in the local contract. The goal is to reach a tentative agreement that will be submitted to union members for approval. Bargaining can sometimes take months with bargaining sessions happening on a regular basis. Local 7600 members will also receive more details on national and local bargaining.

How do we get a good contract with the company?

Bargaining helps balance power between Kaiser and us, but doesn’t guarantee results we want — it only guarantees both parties the right to advocate for their interests. 

In order to get a fair contract that address-es our needs, we need to build and use our collective power. Our ability to achieve our bargaining goals and strengthen our contract is directly tied to our solidarity – our determi-nation and willingness to work together locally at our individual facilities and collectively with other unions in the Alliance to achieve our goals. Showing our unity improves our ability to address our issues in negotiations and is usually a decisive factor in shaping the final agreements. Sharing information and taking part in solidarity activities send a message to management that we are unified for top-quality patient care and dignity in our workplace. 

Once a tentative agreement is reached, what happens next?

Union members in good standing may vote to pass or reject a tentative agreement. Your bar-gaining committee may make a recommendation regarding a proposed agreement.

Who represents us at the bargaining table?

We are represented in negotiations by your bargaining committee which is made up of rep-resentatives from USW Local 7600 and USW staff.

What kinds of proposals are discussed?

Generally, contract proposals fall into one of two categories:

  1. Economic proposals, such as wages, paid time off, health insurance, pensions or S&A benefits, or
  2. Non-economic items, such as safety standards, seniority, and the grievance and arbitration procedure.

Do members get to vote on a tentative agreement?

Union members in good standing may vote to ratify or reject a tentative agreement. Your bargaining committee may make a recommendation regarding a proposed agreement.

What happens if we don’t finish negotiations before the contract expiration date?

If the company and the Union have not reached an agreement by the contract expiration date, we each have three options.

The Union can:

  1. Negotiate an extension of the old contract, or
  2. Continue to work while we increase pressure on management and build power for bargaining, or 
  3. Strike.

Similarly, the company can:

  1. Negotiate an extension of the old contract, or
  2. Continue to operate while negotiating with the Union, or
  3. Lock out the bargaining unit.

Without an agreed-upon extension, many terms of conditions of employment remain the same even after contract expiration. Articles in the contract that would NOT be in effect include management rights, no strike and no lockout language, arbitration for new grievances.

What can I do to ensure we get a good contract?

Stay informed!

Look for announcements and materials from members in your work area; check back here often, like our union on Facebook, and sign up to receive text message updates on your cell phone. Send the text message USW7600 to 77820.

Message and data rates may apply. You can opt out any time by texting “stop” to 77820.

Volunteer to be on the Communication and Action Team (CAT) to help distribute updates and other materials.

Be prepared to participate in solidarity actions like wearing a sticker to show KP we are united!