Strike cancelled following death of Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson

NotesNovember 10, 2019

Dear NUHW Kaiser Member:

As you may already know, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson passed away today. After learning of Tyson’s death, 170 stewards convened a call and voted nearly unanimously to postpone the strike. At this point, we are postponing the strike until December.

We know a lot of folks would prefer to move forward with the strike, but our stewards determined that it would not be appropriate or beneficial for us to strike immediately after Bernard Tyson’s death. Out of respect for his family and everyone who knew him at Kaiser, we want to allow a reasonable time for people to mourn his passing.

We are not backing down. But we don’t strike for the sake of striking. The purpose of going on strike is to communicate our goals to the public, and to rally support behind our cause in order to win a fair contract. We could not accomplish these goals by striking immediately after Tyson’s death. If we were to strike on Monday, the question we’d get from reporters would not be, “What’s wrong with Kaiser’s mental health care system?” It would be, “How do you explain striking one day after after Bernard Tyson’s death?”

Our message would likely have been overshadowed by the news of his passing. The public would not be sympathetic and our political allies, who know Tyson, respect him, and view him as a leader and trailblazer in the healthcare industry, would distance themselves from our cause. In short, we would have nothing to gain from striking tomorrow, and everything to lose.

Over the past couple days, our political allies at the highest level of state government were engaging Tyson, pushing him to re-enter negotiations and settle on our terms. There was a real possibility of negotiations commencing during the strike. But right now, there is no one with whom to negotiate and no one for our allies to push for a favorable settlement.

Bernard Tyson could have done a lot more to achieve parity for mental health care, but striking one day after his death would strengthen those in Kaiser who want to continue treating mental health care and all NUHW members as the stepchildren of the Kaiser system.

Next week, we will reach out to Kaiser’s interim CEO to determine if management’s stance toward us has changed. If it hasn’t, we will move forward with a strike in December.

Everyone should report to work on Monday. NUHW staff will go to the picket locations early Monday morning in case anyone hasn’t gotten the message that the strike has been postponed.

In Unity,

Sal Rosselli, President
National Union of Healthcare Workers