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Contract Talks for 1,800 Security Officers at Kaiser Permanente Break Down - Major Cuts to Worker Healthcare are at Issue

SAN FRANCISCO, July 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At a bargaining session yesterday with SEIU Property Services Division, the union representing 1,800 security officers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California and the rest of the nation, talks with Kaiser's security contractor Securitas ended when the contractor refused to restore the affordable healthcare coverage officers had had at the start of the year. Bargaining broke down Tuesday evening as Securitas rejected efforts to negotiate improvements to the officers' health insurance coverage, and offered a meager 10 cent per hour pay raise.

Healthcare benefits were slashed in February when Securitas was awarded Kaiser's security contract, making routine doctor's visits, preventative care, medications, and other basic health services unaffordable for many officers and their families.

"Kaiser Permanente wants to be seen as a leader in the movement for national health care reform, yet they sit quietly by while their contractor cuts healthcare for the security officers who protect their facilities," said Tom Balanoff, SEIU International Vice President. "It is disappointing that our talks broke down over the most basic aspects of providing good, safe jobs and fair benefits to valuable employees of the nation's largest non-profit health system."

No new bargaining dates have been set, and a labor peace agreement between SEIU and Securitas is set to expire on July 15. Over the past few months, as officers have been speaking out against the healthcare cuts, the company has been conducting illegal surveillance of them. Thus, the security officers vowed to vote soon on whether or not to authorize their bargaining committee to call an unfair labor practice strike, and pledged to continue ongoing pickets outside of Kaiser hospitals.

"It's a slap in the face that they didn't give us any movement on our healthcare, and offered just a 10-cent raise to our pay," said Julia Benavente, a member of the Bargaining Committee. Julia protects the Kaiser Permanente Manteca Medical Center, yet the new healthcare costs have forced her to skip daily medications and routine blood tests to manage her diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. "I am very upset, but we officers are coming together to show that we are ready to fight for respect and for our families."

The security officers at Kaiser facilities are paid as little as $21,600 per year -- far short of the $54,000 per year the Economic Policy Institute reports it would take to support a family of four in California. Not only are officers paid poverty wages, but Securitas' health insurance plan has drastically increased healthcare costs for the workers. Out-of-pocket costs for prescription medicines have tripled, and copayments for doctor visits have doubled.

"I come to work every day in fear -- hoping that I don't get sick, that my children don't get sick," says William Seals, a Bargaining Committee member who has protected Kaiser facilities for 13 years. "Kaiser says that they are all about 'thriving' and staying healthy, but how can my family do that if I can't afford my healthcare?"

Approximately 1,500 security officers who guard Kaiser facilities in California, and more than 300 in other states, have been leading a national movement to turn dead-end private security jobs into good jobs you can raise a family on. Private security is one of America's fastest-growing industries today, often characterized by low wages and inadequate training.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Property Service Division represents 300,000 janitors, security officers, airport service workers, and other property service workers across the country, including more than 40,000 in California who are members of SEIU United Service Workers West. SEIU is the fastest growing labor union in the Americas with more than 2 million members.

SOURCE Service Employees International Union
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