Thank you, Brother Norberto (Gomez), for the kind introduction and for your leadership of this loud and proud Steelworker local.
And thank you Hal (Ruddick), Kathleen (Theobald), Denise (Duncan) and the entire Alliance team for your grit and dedication.
My brother, USW District 12 Director Galen Prescott. Brother Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME.
I’m Fred Redmond, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, International Vice President and proud dues paying member of the United Steelworkers.
I am so thrilled to be here with you today.
I know I don’t need to say this, but know the entire labor movement is with you every step of the way in this fight for a fair contract!
Look what’s happening across the country right now. Working people have had enough. We’re rising up! Workers are mobilizing and striking! We’re working for a better tomorrow for all working people!
Not only are we fighting, we’re winning!
Safer workplaces. Better pay and benefits. Dignity on the job.
And you are going to win too.
How do I know that? All I have to do is look at the resolve of members of the alliance.
95 percent voted to authorize a strike. 95 percent!
That tells me you’re all together. For one purpose. For one cause!
And Kaiser knows that too.
Now look, this company isn’t exactly hurting. It’s one of the largest, most profitable healthcare companies in the United States. In the second quarter of this year, it raked in 2 billion dollars.
2 billion in a single quarter!
It sits on 44 billion in reserves. Billion with a B.
This is not a company in financial distress.
So why is Kaiser acting like one?
It thrived during the pandemic.
Because of you! Working people! Union people!
You go in every day and take care of patients.
You risk your health and safety to do your job.
Without always having adequate staffing. Without always having the proper protective gear.
You nurse patients back to health.
You run tests. You feed them. You bathe them. You wash their linens. You clean and sanitize their rooms.
And you hold their hands while they are dying.
You are the comforting light in the darkness. You are heroic!
And you should be treated like heroes. And you should be compensated and respected like heroes.
What Kaiser proposed is a joke.
All across the country health care professionals are overworked, under-respected, and struggling to continue in a profession they love.
Half a million workers have left health care since the beginning of the pandemic.
And I can understand why. They’re exhausted. Burned out. Underappreciated.
6 out of 10 frontline healthcare workers say the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health.
And 1 in 3 nurses are considering leaving the bedside. Or have already left.
The entire healthcare industry has recognized that—well everyone except Kaiser.
Most places are staffing up. Raising wages. And a lot of them are treating their workers like the valuable assets they are.
Yet Kaiser is acting like you are a cost. A number against their bottom line.
And this way of thinking not only hurts workers, it hurts the patients you serve.
Poor staffing leads to poor health outcomes for patients.
Let me say that again. Poor staffing leads to poor health outcomes for patients.
When healthcare workers are overworked, patients suffer.
That’s the horrible truth.
Now look, for more than 30 years you have had a labor management partnership with Kaiser. And during that time, you worked together to solve problems. You came together and made decisions on staffing, on equity, on patient care that benefited the company, the workers and the patients.
But I understand that Kaiser’s new leadership is no longer listening to your proposals.
And I understand they rejected your recommendations that would solve problems related to systemic racism and social inequities throughout the organization.
Kaiser likes to say they’re fighting racial injustice. They’ve pledged millions in grants for community programs to end systemic racism.
But if they really cared—if they really want to make real change—they should look no further than their own workforce.
Now, the labor movement has been fighting for equal pay for equal work since the beginning of time.
Equal pay for equal work. It’s a fairly straight-forward concept.
But for years Kaiser Permanente has paid different rates to workers doing the exact same job.
Particularly in service jobs, a lot of them my fellow Steelworkers, that are overwhelmingly held by people of color.
And not just a little less. Significantly less. As much as 39 percent less.
This is not a regional wage difference. Some of these jobs are right next door, just a few miles away.
It’s a racial wage difference.
There is no justifiable reason for workers in one county in southern California to be paid significantly less than workers in the county next door.
I heard about Kaiser’s 2-tier wage proposal.
Well, brothers and sisters, they’ve picked the wrong fight with the wrong unions!!
Is this what Kaiser wants?
Well if it is, then we will give them a fight! Not just with workers in California, or healthcare workers, but with the entire labor movement!
We won’t let them divide us!
We won’t let them sell out our future!
Because you deserve better!
Your patients deserve better!
And there’s nothing we can’t do when we stand together!