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Kaiser Permanente workers strike for more pay, resources


Scheduled to end this weekend

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers remained on strike today in what their union says in the largest action of its type in U.S. history after contract negotiations failed to produce an agreement.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a Kaiser spokesman told City News Service that talks were continuing “and could last into the night.”

According to Kaiser (at press time) “several agreements over specific provisions have been reached” with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, and the health system’s negotiators were prepared to meet around the clock “until we reach a fair and equitable agreement.”

The union, however, has continued circulating plans for picketing. Some 75,000 Kaiser workers are taking part in the strike  across California and several other states.

“Kaiser executives are refusing to listen to us and are bargaining in bad faith over the solutions we need to end the Kaiser short-staffing crisis,” Jessica Cruz, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center–one of the planned picket locations–said in a statement released by the union Monday.

“I see my patients’ frustrations when I have to rush them and hurry on to my next patient. That’s not the care I want to give. We’re burning ourselves out trying to do the jobs of two or three people, and our patients suffer when they can’t get the care they need due to Kaiser’s short-staffing.”

According to the union, picket locations include Kaiser facilities across the state, including in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties. Picketing was also occurring in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Kaiser issued a statement Wednesday that rising inflation has led to a “massive surge” in expenses, and has made it tough for the company to balance taking care of its employees with being affordable to patients.

“It’s our responsibility to continue to balance taking care of our employees and being more affordable to our patients, members and communities. Wages and benefits make up about half the cost of healthcare in America, so we all need to work together on that critical goal,” according to Kaiser.

The union has 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.

“At issue, healthcare workers say, are a series of unfair labor practices related to bargaining in bad faith, along with simmering staff concerns related to unsafe staffing levels that can lead to dangerously long wait times, mistaken diagnosis, and neglect,” according to a statement from the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. “After years of the COVID pandemic and chronic understaffing, Kaiser healthcare workers are calling on management to provide safe staffing levels.”