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Kaiser workers threaten to strike beginning Oct. 4


Cite continued staffing crisis

Nearly 60,000 unionized health care workers at Kaiser Permanente across the state today threatened to strike Oct. 4 if an agreement is not reached to resolve a staffing crisis by the end of this week.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions warned that workers would strike Oct. 4 to 6 if a deal is not reached when the unions’ current contract expires on Sept. 30.

Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said Kaiser has failed to adequately address a staffing crisis that has led to dangerous wait times for patients.

“Kaiser executives refuse to acknowledge how much patient care has deteriorated or how much the frontline health care workforce and patients are suffering because of the Kaiser short-staffing crisis,” Regan said in a statement. “The patient care crisis cannot be solved unless Kaiser executives follow the law by bargaining with health care workers in good faith, and take dramatic action now to solve the crisis by investing in its workforce.”

Union officials said if a walkout occurs, it could be the largest health-care strike in U.S. history.

The union accused Kaiser of cutting performance bonuses for employees, failing to protect employees against subcontracting, offering wages that fail to keep pace with inflation and falling short in efforts to maintain adequate staffing levels.

Kaiser officials issued a statement on Sept. 22 saying it is confident a strike can be averted before the deadline.

“The Coalition unions are positioned to strike in October,” according to the statement. “However, for the last 26 years of our historic labor-management partnership, we have reached agreements with the Coalition every time, with no strikes. A strike notice does not mean a strike will happen.”

Kaiser said its top priority is caring for members and patients, “and we have plans in place to ensure we can continue to provide high-quality care should a strike actually occur. To be clear, we will continue to bargain in good faith until we reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens our position as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access.”

Kaiser said its hiring goals this year resulted in more than 9,700 positions filled, “and we are aggressively recruiting to fill more.”