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Kaiser Permanente Planning to Vote on Strike Authorization

Posted by Sara Cooper | Aug 25, 2023 | 0 Comments

With over 85,000 workers across the nation, their coalition of unions at Kaiser Permanente clinics and hospitals announced today that they will start the process on August 28th on the voting process amongst all members on whether to authorize a strike, for the purpose of “unfair labor negotiating practices, understaffing, and underpaying workers,” according to Courthouse News Service.

“We are here today, because there is a crisis in patient care at Kaiser Permanente,” said Caroline Lucas, the executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which has 12 local union members, at a press conference announcing the vote in Los Angeles. “Too many facilities are stretched to the brink. They're understaffed. The people that are left to provide care are maxed.”

With the decline of staffing, health care workers are burned out and cannot attend patients on time accordingly she continues.

“Kaiser used to be the industry leader, but they have abdicated that role by failing to work with us to solve the staffing crisis, and we are all paying for it, the patients, our families and the folks providing the healthcare,” she said. 

With outside factors including the rising cost of living due to the extremity of inflation, healthcare isn't exactly a sustainable career choice right now says Lucas.

Right now, there are 38 days left in the workers' contact with Kaiser, and the company has completed evaporated in refusal on meeting with the union's negotiating team, said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West.

Due to have no cooperation of any sort with Kaiser, the union's leaders have decided to ask ran-and-file members to authorize a strike for the negotiations of unfair labor working conditions that members have been enduring, a few days from now until mid-September.

If the strike is authorized by union members, it would be the largest strike in the nation's history within the healthcare industry, Regan said, impacting millions of Americans in seven states and Washington D.C.

“That's where we've gotten to on the heels of a pandemic. A once-in-a-century event,” Regan said, adding that 63 members of his union died during the pandemic. “Health care workers for the last three years have been pushed to the limits. It's been traumatic. It's been exhausting. It's been debilitating in so many ways.” 

Although Kaiser Permanente is a nonprofit health care company, it's nonprofit in name only, Regan said. He said Kaiser has the money both to hire more hospital staff and to pay existing staff a fair wage.  

The company, Regan noted, has gone from $50 billion to over $62 billion in net worth in the last year, and its investment portfolio is more than $120 billion — all of which goes untaxed because of Kaiser's nonprofit status. Kaiser's CEO, he continued, made a salary of $17 million last year. 

The union's proposal, Regan said, was for a four-year contract with annual pay increases, and a minimum wage of $25 an hour. Kaiser offered its own proposal by email yesterday, he said, of $21 an hour minimum wage in 2026. 

“I think everyone knows you cannot live, you cannot take care of a family in Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Honolulu, on $19, $20, $21 an hour,” Regan said.  

According to Courthouse News Service, “Earlier in the press conference, Regan connected the request of health care workers to those of Hollywood screenwriters, teachers, hotel workers and other unionized workers striking this year: fair wages that take into account high cost-of-living expenses and inflation. Regan referred to the flurry of labor organizing and strikes as the “hot union summer of 2023.””

The strike can start as soon as October 1st, bringing services for nationwide facilities of Kaiser to a halt.

“How will this affect patient care? The delays will get worse. The disruptions will get worse. The quality will get worse,” Regan said about Kaiser Permanente facilities if the strike is approved. 

He added that the company is already releasing ads to hire strikebreakers, offering wages three times what workers receive now. 

“I would just like to add to that. Would a strike impact patient care? It would. It would cause delays, but you know what else causes delays in patient care? Not having a staff to treat the patients. Waiting six months in Colorado for a radiology appointment. That causes delays in care. We would go on strike because we care about fixing those things,” Lucas added. 

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