To our valued employees:
We have received letters from employees inquiring about where we are in the bargaining process with NUHW. In particular, there seems to be some confusion about the mutual non-disparagement side agreement.
We recently made offers to settle contracts in the IBHS, Psych Social, and Health Care Professionals bargaining units. Each offer had two aspects, a “last best and final” and a mutual non-disparagement side agreement between Kaiser Permanente and NUHW. This is consistent with 2015 bargaining.
Following the recent ratification votes, NUHW leadership announced it was accepting the “last best and finals” in each bargaining unit; however, it rejected the Side Agreement and has so far refused to provide any counterproposal. Unfortunately, because NUHW rejected part of our offers for each bargaining unit, we do not have any settled contracts yet.
Is There Precedent for Including a Mutual Non-Disparagement Side Agreement in Kaiser Permanente’s Offer?
Yes. There is nothing new in this. In 2015, our final offers in these bargaining units similarly included contract offers and a mutual non-disparagement side agreement. Those contracts settled when NUHW agreed to and ratified each contract offer and signed the side agreement.
Our offers this year are structured the same way. The proposed side agreement is simply an updated version of the same agreement that the parties reached in 2015. We are not asking the Union to agree to anything now it did not agree to in 2015.
Why Have this Side Agreement?
We are committed to collaborating effectively, and this requires that we have open and frank discussions and that we own and solve problems together without disparaging one another. In 2015, the Mutual Non-Disparagement Side Agreement created an environment which enabled us to embark on collaborative work through regional professional practice committees and gatherings with leaders, managers, and stewards to learn, build trust, and problem solve together. We did this not just at the leadership level, but also at the department level, where staff engaged directly.
All we are asking for now is to have the same arrangement so that we can continue to collaborate effectively during these contracts. Our journey is still very young and requires the mutual assurances provided in this side agreement to flourish.
What Does the Mutual Non-Disparagement Side Agreement Require?
Simply put, it prevents NUHW and Kaiser Permanente from publicly disparaging each other during the term of the collective bargaining agreements. It is not a “gag order.” It does not apply to NUHW-represented employees at all — your speech and actions are not affected in any way. It does not prohibit NUHW from making good faith complaints or reports of perceived violations of the law to government authorities related to Kaiser Permanente’s mental health care. It does, however, prohibit NUHW and Kaiser Permanente from publicly disparaging the other or from singling out the others’ leaders or managers for defamatory public attacks.
We look forward to resolution of this issue so that we can move forward together successfully. Thank you for your dedication and the tremendous work you do every day.
Dennis Dabney, SVP, National Labor Relations and the Office of Labor Management Partnership, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals; and Jim Pruitt, VP, Labor Management Partnership and Labor Relations, The Permanente Federation.