Thousands of union workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities across the country, including 3,800 in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., have voted to authorize an unfair labor practices strike if an agreement with management is not reached by September 30. The strike is in response to concerns over staffing shortages and low pay for workers.
The union, OPEIU Local 2, represents various healthcare workers, such as optometrists, pharmacists, nurses, certified nursing assistants, and technicians. They claim that unsafe staffing shortages have resulted in long wait times and rushed care. If the strike takes place, it could potentially be the largest healthcare strike in U.S. history.
The previous contract negotiations between the coalition of unions and Kaiser Permanente took place in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pressures of the pandemic have worsened working conditions and exacerbated the healthcare staffing crisis. The union argues that decisions made by Kaiser Permanente executives, such as cutting bonuses, insufficiently raising wages, and offering low wages for entry-level workers, have contributed to the current staff issues.
Kaiser Permanente responded to the strike authorization vote by calling it a “disappointing action” and expressed confidence in reaching an agreement before the deadline. They argue that the wage grievances by the union are misleading and that they have made efforts to address staffing concerns through continued education and training opportunities.
The union countered by stating that Kaiser Permanente has made substantial profits, with $3 billion in the first six months of 2023, according to a financial report from the company. Workers claim that Kaiser Permanente is committing unfair labor practices and that understaffing is boosting profits while negatively impacting patient care.
As the bargaining sessions continue, the union is demanding that Kaiser Permanente bargain in good faith, address the healthcare staffing crisis, and improve working conditions. Both parties have expressed their commitment to providing high-quality care and ensuring access to healthcare services.
– OPEIU Local 2 statement
– Kaiser Permanente statement