Over 60,000 Kaiser Permanente Employees Approve a Strike

Kaiser Permanente

More than 60,000 healthcare workers have voted to authorize a strike against Kaiser Permanente if an agreement is not reached when their current contract expires on September 30. The strike authorization vote comes as members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West raise concerns about inadequate pay increases that have not kept pace with inflation and understaffing issues leading to long patient wait times and neglect. The California union, which boasts over 57,000 members, includes various healthcare professionals like medical assistants, surgical technicians, and social workers.

In addition to the California workers, around 4,000 healthcare employees in Oregon and Washington state have also voted to authorize strikes against Kaiser, while in Colorado, 3,000 workers had already authorized strikes against the healthcare provider last week. All these labor groups are part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, representing a total of 85,000 healthcare workers. If the strikes go ahead, they would be the largest ever conducted by healthcare workers in U.S. history.

Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest nonprofit health plans in the country with nearly 13 million members, operates 39 hospitals and over 600 medical offices across eight states and Washington, D.C. Contract negotiations between the coalition and Kaiser began in April, with the last contract having been negotiated in 2019 before the pandemic significantly impacted the healthcare system. A final national bargaining session is scheduled for September 21-22.

Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, accused Kaiser of failing to negotiate in good faith and claimed their proposals would exacerbate staffing problems. Kaiser, in response, refuted these claims, calling them misleading, and urged its employees to resist any strike call, emphasizing that it has a comprehensive plan in place to ensure continued access to healthcare if a strike occurs. In late August, Kaiser had labeled the strike threats as “disappointing” and refuted accusations of acting in bad faith.

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