More than 75,000 employees of Kaiser Permanente, the largest nonprofit health care organization in the U.S., have announced their intention to strike for three days in October if they do not reach a labor agreement with the management by the end of this month. The workers, who are members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, say they are facing understaffing, long wait times for patients, and inadequate wages.
The coalition, which represents medical assistants, surgical and lab technicians, pharmacists, administrative staff, and other health care workers, says that Kaiser has failed to address the staffing crisis that has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The workers claim that they are overworked, burned out, and unable to provide quality care to their patients.
According to the coalition, Kaiser has more than 10,000 unfilled positions nationwide, and has not hired enough staff to meet the growing demand for health care services. The workers say that they have to deal with long shifts, mandatory overtime, and unsafe working conditions. They also allege that Kaiser has outsourced some of their jobs to lower-paid contractors, violating their previous contract.
The workers say that the understaffing crisis has led to dangerous wait times for patients, especially for those who need mental health care, cancer treatment, or emergency services. They say that some patients have to wait for months to get an appointment, or travel long distances to find an available facility. They also say that some patients have died or suffered serious harm due to the delays in care.
The coalition also says that Kaiser has not offered fair wages to its workers, who have not received a pay raise since 2020. The workers say that their wages have not kept up with the rising cost of living, especially in high-cost areas like California, where most of them work. They say that they are struggling to afford housing, food, and other basic needs.
The workers say that they deserve a wage increase that reflects their contribution to Kaiser’s success, as well as their dedication and sacrifice during the pandemic. They say that Kaiser has made billions of dollars in profits in the past year, and has paid its executives millions of dollars in bonuses. They also say that Kaiser has received billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies from the government, which should be used to invest in its workforce and facilities.
The workers say that they are asking for a wage increase that is up to 10% above the market average, as well as a minimum starting wage of $21 per hour. They also say that they want to maintain their current benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and tuition reimbursement.
The coalition says that it has issued a 10-day strike notice to Kaiser on Friday, Sept. 22, after the final bargaining session ended without a resolution. The workers say that they will go on strike from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6, if Kaiser does not agree to their demands by Sept. 30, when their current contract expires. The strike will affect hundreds of Kaiser facilities in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
The coalition says that the strike will be the largest health care workers’ strike in U.S. history, and will impact nearly 13 million Kaiser patients. The workers say that they do not want to strike, but they have no choice, as Kaiser has refused to negotiate in good faith. They say that they hope to reach a fair and equitable agreement that will improve the quality of care and the working conditions for themselves and their patients.
Kaiser has issued a statement in response to the strike notice, saying that it is disappointed and saddened by the coalition’s decision. Kaiser says that it has been bargaining in good faith with the coalition, and has offered a generous and competitive proposal that would benefit its workers and patients.
Kaiser says that its proposal includes across-the-board pay increases, a minimum starting wage of $21 per hour, and a commitment to hire more staff and reduce outsourcing. Kaiser also says that it has maintained its benefits package, which is among the best in the industry. Kaiser says that its proposal is consistent with its philosophy of providing pay that is up to 10% above the market average, and making health care more affordable for its patients, members, and customers.
Kaiser says that it respects the right of its workers to engage in lawful collective action, but it urges them to reconsider their decision to strike. Kaiser says that a strike will not help to resolve the issues, but will only harm its patients, who rely on its services for their health and well-being. Kaiser says that it will continue to provide high-quality care to its patients during the strike, and will do everything possible to minimize the disruption and inconvenience.
Kaiser also says that it values and appreciates its workers, who have shown extraordinary dedication and resilience during the pandemic. Kaiser says that it is proud of its workforce, which is diverse, inclusive, and highly skilled. Kaiser says that it is committed to working with the coalition to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that will strengthen its partnership and its mission of providing high-quality, affordable health care to its communities.