The ongoing strike by over 75,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers has entered its second day, making it the biggest healthcare strike in US history. Represented by a coalition of unions that make up 40% of Kaiser Permanente’s workforce, these employees are based in California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. An additional 200 workers from Kaiser facilities in Virginia and Washington, DC, also participated in the strike on Wednesday.
The work stoppage is scheduled to conclude early Saturday morning, but the coalition has announced plans for a more extended strike in November if a new employment contract is not reached by then. While some tentative agreements have been made during negotiations between the coalition and Kaiser, no final settlement has been reached yet.
The union coalition is demanding higher pay and improved benefits, focusing on resolving the chronic staff shortage that has left healthcare workers overworked and exhausted, particularly in light of the ongoing pandemic. These striking workers include nurses, dietary staff, receptionists, lab technicians, and pharmacists.
One of the key concerns raised by the striking employees is acute short-staffing, which they consider to be dangerous. Due to a lack of new hires, ward clerk transcribers like Ju-Anna Isaiah find themselves overwhelmed and responsible for multiple tasks. Isaiah explained that delays in moving patients from the operating room to the recovery unit can lead to backups, negatively impacting patient care.
The complaints voiced by Isaiah reflect the experiences of other Kaiser workers on the picket line. The union has labeled current staffing levels at Kaiser as “unsafe,” emphasizing the potential dangers posed to patients due to prolonged wait times.
Kaiser Permanente acknowledges that labor shortages are a widespread issue within the healthcare industry, with millions of professionals leaving their jobs due to burnout. The organization has committed to aggressively hiring more staff members, aiming to fill 10,000 union-represented positions by the end of 2023.
Q: What is the primary demand of the striking healthcare workers?
A: The striking workers are demanding higher pay, better benefits, and improved staffing levels.
Q: How many workers are participating in the strike?
A: Over 75,000 Kaiser Permanente employees are currently on strike.
Q: What happens if a new contract is not negotiated by November?
A: The coalition of unions has plans for a more extended strike in November if their demands are not met.
Q: What are some of the professions represented by the striking workers?
A: The striking workers include nurses, dietary staff, receptionists, lab technicians, and pharmacists.
Q: How does Kaiser Permanente explain the staffing shortages?
A: Kaiser Permanente acknowledges that staffing shortages and burnout are industry-wide problems, citing the Great Resignation as a major contributing factor.