Magazine article Drug Topics

National Labor Board Changes Kaiser Pharmacy Union

Magazine article Drug Topics

National Labor Board Changes Kaiser Pharmacy Union

Article excerpt

The National Labor Relations Board has settled a simmering union battle over who will represent 900 pharmacists at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California. The NLRB decision switched pharmacy union representation from the Engineers & Scientists of California ESC), an AFL-CIO affiliate, to the independent Guild for Professional Pharmacists.

For now, said Kaiser spokeswoman Annette Bremner, the decision leaves Kaiser pharmacists in Northern California without a contract. Kaiser plans to continue pay and other provisions negotiated under the defunct ESC pact until a new guild contract can be negotiated.

Lost are' job-protection agreements worked out between Kaiser and the AFL-CIO, which protected pharmacists against layoffs and salary cuts. Bremner said that similar provisions, included under an umbrella partnership between Kaiser and the AFLCIO, are not part of the current contract for R.Ph.s in Southern California. The guild already represents 1,800 Kaiser pharmacists across Southern California as well as Kaiser pharmacists in Oregon and southern Washington. Negotiations on a new pharmacy contract for Northern California could begin before Christmas. "We very much value our contract and working relationship with the guild in Southern California," she said.

"We usually get along well with Kaiser," said guild president Ralph Vogel in Los Angeles. "We've had a good working relationship with them over the years."

Relations in Northern California are off to a rocky start. Kaiser had consistently blocked moves to organize pharmacists, who had voted to drop representation by the Service Employees International Union in 1989. The health maintenance organi zation giant recognized ESC Local 20 as the bargaining unit for NorCal pharmacists in 1998 as part of a broader partnership with the AFLCIO. Under the partnership, Kaiser agreed to a no-layoff policy for AFLCIO members, and unions agreed to moderate contract demands and urge members to choose Kaiser as their health-are plan.

When Kaiser recognized the ESC as the pharmacists' bargaining unit, the guild mounted a three-week organizing campaign and demanded a representation election. Kaiser and ESC objected, claiming that representation issues had already been settled. "The guild wasn't willing to put up any time or money to fight Kaiser until we had already won recognition," said Melanie Sandler, pharmacist and secretary-treasurer for ESC Local 20. …

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