NUHW per diem worker on “Cloud 9” after winning benefits from Kaiser
With a husband nearly ready to retire and forgo his medical coverage, Stacey Miller had already made up her mind to leave Kaiser.
She loved her work as a speech language pathologist, but as a per diem she didn’t get health benefits, which she would need once her husband stopped working.
“I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t see how I could stay without benefits,” said Stacey, who consistently worked at least 32 hours a week without covering for any colleagues. She had asked her managers about reclassifying her, but they told her it couldn’t be done.
What Stacey didn’t know at the time was that Kaiser was actually violating her contractual rights. Under her NUHW contract, Kaiser can’t schedule employees to work regularly, week after week, without covering for a colleague, but classify them as per diem workers — a status that leaves workers without health benefits or the ability to accrue time off.
Rather than leave Kaiser to find an employer that would provide health benefits for herself and her husband, Stacey, with the help of her NUHW stewards and organizers, decided to stick around and fight for the benefits she had earned.
She joined three per diem colleagues in filing a grievance against Kaiser. They argued that they had been working full- or part-time schedules, but not provided the benefits that come with that job status.
“It was a naturally intimidating experience,” she acknowledged. “I really appreciated how our NUHW organizers walked with us through it step-by-step. They explained our role and responsibilities and made it a very seamless process, especially because Kaiser settled.”
On the morning that the grievance was to be presented to a neutral arbitrator, Kaiser abruptly agreed to settle by reclassifying Stacey and her three colleagues to part- and full-time statuses and providing them health benefits.
“The four of us immediately got on a private FaceTime call and started celebrating,” Stacey said. “We didn’t believe that it actually happened.”
As part of the settlement, Kaiser has agreed to consider requests to reclassify other per diem employees who also meet the threshold for full-time and part-time status. So far, NUHW stewards and organizers have identified nearly 20 healthcare professionals who will apply for reclassification and take their case to an arbitrator if Kaiser doesn’t reclassify them.
From dark to light
The grievance victory, which was achieved in February, has made a huge difference in Stacey’s life.
She no longer worries about medical insurance for her and her husband when he retires. And she will also have retirement benefits of her own, something that was constantly on her mind at age 59.
“This is absolutely a Godsend,” she said. “It definitely brought light into a very dark situation.”
Stacey is still on “Cloud 9” and wants other Kaiser per diems who are working more than 20 hours to know that they too can win health benefits.
“If you can show that you are used as a regular employee without covering for someone else, you should contact your organizer,” she said. “This experience has really opened my eyes to the importance of being part of a union like NUHW that is willing to advocate for us and show us how to advocate for ourselves.”
If you believe Kaiser might be incorrectly classifying you as a per diem, contact your steward or NUHW organizer Edan Dhanraj at email@example.com or 610-360-0726.