Kaiser picket in northern California

Voting for strike authorization is underway for the 85,000 healthcare workers employed at the major US healthcare corporation Kaiser Permanente. While voting is set to continue through mid-September, voting by 3,000 Kaiser workers in Colorado, members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 105, has already concluded, with 99 percent voting to authorize a strike. The Colorado vote reflects broader anger over Kaiser working conditions and points to the likelihood of an overwhelming vote for strike authorization across Kaiser facilities. 

World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to Kaiser and other SEIU workers in San Diego, Santa Clara and Los Angeles, California. Many reported that they are mainly concerned with wages and staffing.

A medical assistant in San Diego told WSWS reporters, “I cannot afford childcare. I love patient care but cannot live on this. Many of us have training, some of us have Bachelor’s or we are certified—$21 an hour is not enough. We are short-staffed. But we also know that at any moment they can take away our positions and that we have no job security.”

Kaiser workers are on the verge of a serious fight, and healthcare workers across the country are watching closely. In order to prepare and prevent a betrayal, Kaiser workers must study the 2019 contract struggle when, after working for a year without a contract, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU) worked out a last-minute deal behind the backs of rank-and-file workers and called off the strike, ending their struggle when workers were in their most powerful position.

The 2019 contract betrayal

The 2019 contract was touted as a “major victory” by the CKPU bureaucrats, but it is the very conditions and poverty wages created by that so-called “victory” contract that are pushing workers to fight for significant gains in another strike. After the 2019 experience, workers are rightly concerned that the current machinations of the CKPU leadership are another betrayal in the making, unless matters are taken into the hands of the rank and file through the building of their own independent rank-and-file committees.

Far from a “major victory,” the 2019 contract contains nothing to concretely improve the working conditions at Kaiser. Major issues that workers were prepared to fight for, such as staffing and wages, were addressed with new “committees” and empty promises and vague plans. Union officials have provided no explanation for why the “victory” of the 2019 contract has resulted in a continuation of understaffing, unlivable wages and generally poor and unsafe working conditions. 

CKPU includes locals from the SEIU and several other unions spanning seven US states and the District of Columbia. Workers in the coalition represent a wide range of occupations within the hospitals—lab techs, custodial staff, nurse assistants, nurses, secretaries and more. 

The Labor-Management Partnership

Source link