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Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions could strike next

Another big strike may be on the horizon

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif.-Late night talk show fans can watch their shows again now that their writers have settled their strike.

"They had to do what they had to do," said late night fan Rebecca Estrada," but I am exited for some entertainment and some laughs again."

But, the same can't be said for Hollywood actors, Las Vegas hospitality workers and Detroit's Big 3 auto workers.

And now Kaiser Permanent workers in a nationwide coalition of unions could be next.

Some of the workers work at Kaiser locations in Ventura and Camarillo.

Kaiser customer Gary Anthony is concerned.

"I think people need to think about more than just their needs and think what everybody else's needs are and that is not striking," said Anthony.

Others said it is important for companies and workers to consider wages over time and the value of a dollar.

"I think the UAW is really good, I am glad to hear the writers' strike is over, the actors are still doing it," said business owner David Postada

Kaiser Permanente is negotiating with its workers to prevent a strike.

In a statement sent from Kaiser Permanent's Senior Media Relations Specialist Terry Kanakri, the company said, "A strike is not inevitable, and it is certainly not justified. " 

The company is offering California workers a minimum of $23 an hour.

"Included in our current offer are guaranteed across-the-board wage increases from 12.5-16% over 4 years."

As long as unemployment remains low workers have bargaining power.

Nearly 400,000 workers have joined strikes in the past year and striking does not qualify them for unemployment.

If Kaiser Permanente's union workers strike economists say it would be the biggest healthcare strike in U.S. history.

Kaiser Permanente's full statement on national bargaining with the coalition of Kaiser Permamente Unions follows below:

Kaiser Permanente and leaders and members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions are bargaining today and have been making progress. We jointly agreed this morning to continue to meet through midday Tuesday if needed, to reach an agreement. A strike is not inevitable, and it is certainly not justified. 

Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens Kaiser Permanente as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access. 

Across the country, people working in health care during the pandemic and in its aftermath have faced the toughest challenges that anyone has had to deal with. Health care is still under great stress. More than 5 million people have left their health care jobs and burnout is at record highs.  

Every health care provider in the nation has been facing staffing shortages and fighting burnout. We are all struggling to catch up with care that was delayed, and we have had fewer people to help carry the work forward. 

But the people of Kaiser Permanente have faced down the pandemic better than most frontline workers because we started from a different place:

  • We lead in total compensation in every market where we operate.
  • We offer a great benefits package to our people and our retirees.
  • We provided nearly $1 Billion in special benefits during the pandemic so our frontline workers had housing, child care and sick benefits to keep them and their families healthy during the pandemic.  

We have always taken care of our employees so they can care for our members, patients, and communities. 

We are bringing those important values to the contract discussions with the Coalition unions. We understand and share the frustration, the burnout, and the exhaustion. We will absolutely do the right thing for our employees, to support them, reward them and be there for them. We also have a responsibility to make sure our high-quality care is affordable and available to meet our members’ needs. 

We need to keep working together to get through this. Because the reality is that we are still in a health care crisis in this country. Access to care is stretched thin and it will take time to recover as an industry and stabilize the US health care system. We can only do that if we work together, management and labor, side-by-side, for one another, our patients, and our communities.   

Will Kaiser Permanente patients be able to get care if a strike occurs?

We take any threat to disrupt care for our members seriously and have plans in place to ensure we can continue to provide high-quality care should a strike actually occur this week.  

Should a strike occur, our hospitals and emergency departments will remain open. Our facilities will continue to be staffed by our physicians, trained and experienced managers, and staff, and in some cases we will augment with contingent workers.  

Our plans ensure that the urgent needs of our members and patients are the top priority. We will contact members affected by any necessary changes in our services during this strike. This could include: 

  • Onboarding professionals contracted to serve in critical care roles specifically for the duration of a strike.
  • Rescheduling non-emergency and elective services in some locations out of an abundance of caution. 
  • Expanding Kaiser Permanente’s network of pharmacy locations to include community pharmacies that can serve our members during a strike and mitigate any closure of our outpatient pharmacies.  The inpatient pharmacies serving our hospitals will remain open.  

 How long would a strike be?

The length of a potential strike varies by union.  

Most of our regions, including California, are anticipating a 3-day strike beginning at 6am local time on Wednesday Oct. 4, and concluding at 6am local time on Saturday Oct. 7. 

In the Mid-Atlantic region, a strike would involve a limited number of employees on Wednesday, and last 24 hours.  

Where do negotiations stand on wages?

Included in our current offer are guaranteed across-the-board wage increases from 12.5-16% over 4 years, and a proposed $21 minimum wage in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, the Mid-Atlantic States (Virginia, Maryland, and DC), and Hawaii; and a $23 minimum wage in California; these minimum wages would increase each year of the 4-year contract.

We lead total compensation in every market where we operate, and our proposals in bargaining would ensure we keep that position. In some places, like in Southern California, a Kaiser Permanente employee leaving for a similar job at another organization would on average face a 20-plus percent pay cut and lower benefits. 

Terry Kanakri
Senior Media Relations Specialist

Article Topic Follows: Money and Business

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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