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Looming Strike over at Kaiser Permanente if Agreement can't be Met

Posted by Sara Cooper | Oct 03, 2023 | 0 Comments

This week, one of the largest medical systems in the nation, made a statement that they will continue to provide quality care for its 12.7 million members and patients.

This upcoming strike would be the largest health care strike in the nation's history, with more than 75,000 workers across the United States. If an agreement cannot be reached between union members and Kaiser executives, walking off the job will be the next step. This will start from tomorrow through this Friday, and these plans can reach through November depending on negotiations go.

Despite the walkout, the healthcare system won't be completely empty without employees. As of June, Kaiser Permanente employs more than 281,000 nurses, technicians, administrative and clerical workers, as well as nearly 24,000 doctors at its 39 hospitals and 622 medical offices. About 60% of staffers would still be working in the event of a strike, according to the organization.

Those whom are of the 8 unions, a strike is being impeded on for their demands of the new contract, and members include EMTs, nurses, respiratory therapists and support staff.

Last year, a smaller strike had occurred within the mental health departments of Kaiser, leading to long wait times for patients and even many cancelled appointments.

Kaiser responded that appointments and procedures noted as non-urgent will be postponed, but patients that will be impacted will be contacted if that is the case.

If the strike goes through, it will be the first national one for Kaiser, but patients in Georgia, Hawaii or Washington would not be affected, and operations would continue as usual in those states.

Optometrists and pharmacists in Virginia and the District of Columbia would be the only workers in those states prepared to strike.

However, the impact for patients in Colorado, Oregon and California "could be more substantial," a Kaiser spokesperson said.

"We have detailed continuity plans in place in all of these markets that include the use of non-represented and management staff along with contingency workers. In addition, all our physicians will be available," the spokesperson said.

Less employees being available is going to be difficult, according to John August, director of health care labor relations at Cornell University and former executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

"Managers are still going to be there. The doctors are still going to be there. From the outside looking in, it's easy to say that it's not going to be that disruptive," he said. "The reality is, it's extremely disruptive."

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shorter staff at Kaiser as well as for many other healthcare systems. That is one of the issues union workers are negotiating about for all workers at Kaiser.

Kaiser Permanente says it has been working to bulk up staffing according to CBS. It set a goal of hiring 10,000 additional workers by the end of the year and should reach that mark this month, it said. About 29,000 staffers were hired in 2022 and an additional 22,000 this year. 

Updates will be posted about the possible strike soon.

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