Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente employees in California and elsewhere plan to go on strike in early October after the healthcare giant and unions that represent a huge swath of the Kaiser workforce failed to reach an agreement this week that resolves concerns about pay, staffing and other issues.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions announced Friday that a three-day strike could begin Oct. 4 to protest Kaiser's "bad faith bargaining" over solutions to what it calls a "staffing crisis" that puts patient safety at risk. The strike will move forward if a deal isn't reached by Sept. 30, when the unions' current contracts expire, the coalition said.
"Kaiser executives refuse to acknowledge how much patient care has deteriorated or how much the frontline healthcare workforce and patients are suffering because of the Kaiser short-staffing crisis," Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said in a statement from the coalition.
Kaiser Permanente did not immediately provide comment on the Friday announcement.
The strike would affect Kaiser facilities in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to the coalition, which includes members of four international unions. Hospitals and clinics would be deprived of a range or workers represented by multiple unions, including medical assistants, information technology workers, surgical technicians, social workers, food service workers and housekeepers.
It is poised to be the biggest strike by healthcare workers in U.S. history, union leaders said.
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West and many other unions in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions announced this month that their members had voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike if no agreement is reached by the end of September, when their current contracts run out. Members of the unions that make up the coalition work in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Union leaders have faulted the Oakland-based health system for chronic understaffing that they said drags out waits for patients and hampers patient safety.
"Healthcare workers see how Kaiser patients are forced to wait unsafe lengths of time for cancer screenings, room assignments, test results, primary care appointments, X-rays, surgeries, waiting in emergency rooms, and more," Audrey Cardenas Loera, a fees and benefits support specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Hillsboro, Ore., said in a statement from the union coalition. "We simply want our patients to be safe and get the care that they deserve."
The coalition also said wages have failed to keep up with the rising cost of living, and it accused Kaiser of not bargaining in good faith to fix the problems.
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