Healthcare personnel at various Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical centers around the United States made the decision to take the day off on Wednesday morning. They took this step-in order to put pressure on their company to address a staffing shortage that has gotten worse since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
The strike involved more than 75,000 employees (about the seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum), including nursing staff, technicians for emergency rooms, pharmacy technicians, and many more specialists. Washington, D.C., Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and California all saw strikes.
According to the unions, this healthcare strike is being hailed as the largest Strick in history. Kaiser, a major nonprofit healthcare provider in the United States, takes care of nearly thirteen million patients and is headquartered in Oakland, California. The strike will continue until Saturday morning for the majority of Kaiser employees, except those in Virginia and Washington, D.C., who will be striking for a full day.
In a statement issued at 9 p.m. PT on Tuesday, Kaiser stated that they were ready to continue talks with the coalition all day and all night long until a reasonable compromise was found. They were optimistic that a deal might be made before the scheduled work stoppages on Wednesday at 6 a.m.
When 6 am on the West Coast approached, there was still no word of an agreement, so workers joined the picket lines.
The Kaiser Permanente employees’ strike is only temporary, and on October 7 at 6 a.m. local time, all affected states’ citizens will resume working. But if the coalition and Kaiser Permanente are unable to come to an agreement after this strike, there might be a potentially longer and more intense walkout in November. The main union in the alliance, SEIU-UHW, provided this information.
The workers who are on strike are sharing their genuine feelings of being overwhelmed and tired due to the shortage of staff. They have been working tirelessly, and this has taken a toll on their well-being.
Kaiser Permanente recently announced that they have decided to quicken the hiring process. By the end of 2023, they intend to have hired 10,000 new workers for union-represented positions.
Kaiser Permanente Demands:
A higher wage is one of the demands made by the union coalition. They believe that management at Kaiser Permanente may use this to address the persistent problem of personnel shortages. The coalition seeks early notice when management asks remote workers to resume in-person work as well as protections against outsourcing.
Before the strike began, there were positive developments in the discussions, as mentioned in a newsletter from SEIU-UHW. However, when it comes to increasing employee compensation, there are still significant differences between management and the unions. They have not yet reached an agreement on this important matter.
The collective bargaining contract, which covers the coalition of unions representing Kaiser Permanente employees, expired on September 30 without reaching a new agreement. This means that the previous contract is no longer in effect, and there is currently no updated agreement in place between the unions and Kaiser Permanente.
The unions and Kaiser executives still disagree greatly, especially when it comes to salaries, despite recent conversations making progress on certain issues like protections for outsourcing and subcontracting.
On Monday, the two parties made a provisional deal proposing a 40% increase to an education fund. According to the SEIU-UHW union in California, this fund would finance further training for staff.
However, the coalition of unions is asking for a roughly 25% salary boost for all of its workers as well as better perks like retiree medical insurance. They contend that providing improved compensation and working conditions would encourage more employees to remain at Kaiser, draw in new hires, and finally solve the staffing problem.
Kaiser has responded by recommending rises that would range from 12.5% to 16% over the course of four years. Kaiser also stressed that the company is on track to hire 10,000 more unionized workers by the end 2023 to fill vacant positions.
From the start the Kaiser was in a better position so they claimed their personnel had handled the pandemic better than other frontline workers.
While some view Kaiser’s pledge to hire more people as a positive step, some contend that the company should also take into account the substantial number of employees who are departing. They think that in order to provide people with strong motivation to stay at Kaiser, pay must be boosted significantly.