More than 75,000 healthcare workers are preparing to go on strike for three consecutive days in October. The workers claim that Kaiser Permanente executives have not been negotiating in good faith regarding staffing issues. On Friday, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions issued a 10-day strike notice, which is the last day of scheduled bargaining talks before the contract expires on September 30. If the strike proceeds, it will be the largest healthcare strike in history and is scheduled for October 4 to October 6.
The unions have a number of demands including higher wages, a minimum wage of $25 for all employees, and improved staffing levels. According to Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, Kaiser executives are refusing to acknowledge the negative impact their short-staffing crisis has on patient care and the healthcare workforce. In a statement on Friday, Regan expressed his disappointment with Kaiser's lack of cooperation.
One healthcare worker, Henry Perez, who works at the Kaiser Permanente in Modesto, Calif., said, "It's unfortunate that it has come to this. Kaiser should be ashamed of themselves for not approaching the bargaining table with good intentions."
Kaiser and Union Coalition at Odds Over Contract Negotiations
A potential strike looms over Kaiser as the union coalition representing 85,000 healthcare workers threatens to take action if an overall contract is not reached. The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW) has issued a strike notice for October, with the possibility of a wider strike in November.
Kaiser, however, remains confident in the strength of their labor-management partnership. In the statement released by spokesperson Steve Shivinsky, he assured that although a strike notice had been given, it did not necessarily mean that a strike would occur. Shivinsky emphasized that over the past 26 years, Kaiser has always reached agreements with the Coalition without resorting to strikes.
As negotiations continue, Kaiser has been actively hiring new employees, having already added 22,000 individuals to their workforce this year. The company prides itself on its commitment to providing competitive wages, offering pay that is up to 10% above market rates.
While the October strike has garnered significant attention, it's important to note that not all healthcare workers will participate due to issues with contract timelines. The union coalition predominantly represents non-nursing and non-medical staff such as surgical technologists, certified nursing assistants, occupational therapists, and administrative personnel.
If the strike proceeds, it will impact hundreds of Kaiser facilities across California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and Washington D.C. It remains uncertain how the situation will unfold, but the stakes are high for both Kaiser and the union coalition as they navigate through these crucial contract negotiations.