75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers are officially on strike

The largest health worker strike went into effect on Wednesday morning, as an agreement between 75,000 healthcare workers and Kaiser Permanente hospitals has yet to be reached.

The strike began on 4 October at 6am PT as the workers — nurses, radiology technicians, pharmacists, sonographers and others — are striking “to protest unfair labor practices and unsafe staffing levels,” according to the latest release from SEIU-UHW, a union that is part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

The strike will take place across the country in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Virginia and Washington DC and is expected to last three days.

The strike comes after failed negotiations following the workers’ contract expiring on 30 September.

Early on Wednesday, Kaiser Permanente also issued a statement on the progress, saying the two parties are “still at the bargaining table, having worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement. There has been a lot of progress, with agreements reached on several specific proposals late Tuesday.”

But the coalition was singing to a different tune. “No agreement can be made until Kaiser executives stop bargaining in bad faith and committing unfair labor practices,” said, Caroline Lucas, executive director of the coalition.


A California nurse weighs in

Catherine Kennedy, RN and a president of California Nurses Association (CNA) discussed the current Kaiser situation:

Registered nurses and members of CNA/NNOC at Kaiser Permanente stand in solidarity with the striking workers, who are demanding the health care giant invest its profits back into patient care. RNs know the devastating impacts of Kaiser’s manufactured staffing crisis on patient care, including delays in care and lack of access.

Just this year, Kaiser has made more than $3 billion in profits, and yet hospitals and clinics remain short-staffed. Rather than invest in direct, hands-on patient care, Kaiser is spending millions of dollars on outsourcing schemes that remove patients from the hospital. Executives are also diverting profits from patient care to acquire health systems in other states.

CNA/NNOC Kaiser nurses are supporting their colleagues this week by holding actions inside and outside their hospitals. We call on Kaiser to settle a fair contract that respects workers and patients.

Kelly Rissman5 October 2023 02:00


What is the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions saying?

Statement from Caroline Lucas, Executive Director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions:

Given the urgency of Kaiser’s staffing crisis, frontline healthcare workers are ready to sit down with Kaiser executives whenever they’re ready to bargain in good faith — including up until the scheduled strike start time. However, no agreement can be made until Kaiser executives stop bargaining in bad faith and committing unfair labor practices.

Tens of thousands of frontline Kaiser healthcare workers across the country are ready for an unfair labor practice strike at 6 a.m. tomorrow. Patients and workers need dramatic action now to solve the Kaiser short staffing crisis and to ensure our patients’ safety.

With hours left before our strike, both management and union negotiators are on stand-by waiting for Kaiser executives to resolve their internal debate about whether to do what it takes to reach an agreement or force the largest healthcare worker strike in US history.

Kelly Rissman5 October 2023 01:00


What members of Congress are saying

Sen Bernie Sanders wrote: “I stand in solidarity with the 75,000 health care workers at Kaiser Permanente who are fighting for safe staffing ratios & better wages, benefits & working conditions. If Kaiser can afford to pay its CEO over $15.4 million it can afford to treat all of its workers with respect.”

Congresswoman Cori Bush posted, “Today, 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers walked off the job, becoming the largest healthcare strike in US history. I stand in solidarity with them in their fight.”

Sen Jeff Merkley also said, “I’m supporting striking Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers in Oregon and across the country who are negotiating for quality patient care and for what should be standard in all healthcare workplaces — safe staffing levels.”

Sen Michael Bennet voiced his support for the strikers as well, “Our health care workers save lives every day, and their hard work deserves to be rewarded. As nearly 3,000 @SEIU105 and Kaiser Permanente workers in Colorado go on strike, I stand with them in their fight for fair wages and better working conditions.”

Kelly Rissman5 October 2023 00:00


A cardiac monitor on the pulse of the negotiations

Kelly Rissman4 October 2023 23:00


A Kaiser employee accused the healthcare giant of not reaching a deal due to executives’ ‘greed’

Tami Chew said that Kaiser executives chose to close many of the member service offices in California and opted against hiring more workers “because of their greed.”

She pointed to the hospital system’s finances for the first half of 2023. Kaiser Permanente announced in its releases that over the course of the first two quarters, it has earned a net income of $3.2bn. “So they need to come to the table and bargain in good faith and that’s what we’re asking,” Ms Chew said.

Read the full story on what led to the strike

Kelly Rissman4 October 2023 22:00


“Our patients need more staff”

Kelly Rissman4 October 2023 21:30


Colorado Sen Michael Bennet also supported healthcare workers in his state on strike

Kelly Rissman4 October 2023 21:15


Bernie Sanders supports those on strike

Kelly Rissman4 October 2023 21:00


Both Kaiser Permanente management and Coalition union representatives are still at the bargaining table, having worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement. There has been a lot of progress, with agreements reached on several specific proposals late Tuesday.

We remain committed to reaching a new agreement that continues to provide our employees with market-leading wages, excellent benefits, generous retirement income plans, and valuable professional development opportunities.

Kelly Rissman4 October 2023 20:30


What are the healthcare workers seeking?

The number one priority is addressing short staffing.

In a 5 September letter, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Union urged the hospital system to view the staffing shortage as “the patient emergency that it is.”

The letter said that Kaiser Permanente is facing “record attrition” and 30,000 vacancies. This shortage is leading to increased patient wait times and an exacerbated strain on healthcare workers, which only “accelerates the exodus from the field,” the coalition wrote.

On 30 September — the date of the contract expiration — the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions explained that the strike was over “unfair labour practices” and argued that the hospital system is engaging in “bad faith” bargaining.

The coalition wrote a list of demands, outlining that they are looking for across-the-board wage increases, protections against outsourcing, the right to unionise a system that Kaiser acquires, and better benefits.

In August, unions representing Kaiser workers asked for a $25 hourly minimum wage, with pay increases over time.

Kelly Rissman4 October 2023 20:00


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