Kaiser’s 75,000 union employees to strike Oct. 4 if no deal struck – The Mercury News

The next salvo in labor protests lands Oct. 4 when 75,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente could walk off the job, protesting what they say is bad-faith bargaining by the Oakland-based healthcare provider.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, comprised of at least a dozen unions at Kaiser facilities in seven states, issued a 10-day strike notice on Friday, Sept. 22. California members of the coalition voted Thursday, Sept. 14 to authorize the walkout.

See also: Kaiser strike looms: California’s hot labor summer isn’t over yet

If no deal is struck with the healthcare provider, the strike would begin Wednesday, Oct. 4, and end Friday, Oct. 6 at facilities in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and Washington D.C. Most of the union members, roughly 60,000, are in California. Kaiser has 23 facilities in Southern California and 5.2 million members in Southern California and Hawaii.

The coalition claims Kaiser facilities are understaffed, putting an unfair burden on healthcare workers and creating long wait times for patients. It also says wages have not kept up with the rising cost of living.

More on Kaiser: Health care workers call for higher staffing, salaries

“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.

The company issued a statement Friday saying it would continue to bargain in good faith. Kaiser previously said it proposed across-the-board pay increases, including a minimum starting wage of $21 an hour.

Hundreds of healthcare workers and union members hold a Labor Day march on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, from Los Feliz Elementary School to Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Sunset Boulevard. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer) 

“Our philosophy is to provide pay that is up to 10% above market,” Kaiser said Friday. “We also always strive to make healthcare more affordable for our patients, members and customers. Wages and benefits make up about half the cost of health care in America, so we all need to work together on that critical goal.

Also see: Nurses to hold ‘solidarity march’ in support of striking writers, actors

Kaiser stressed its facilities would continue to function in the event of a strike.

“… for the last 26 years of our historic labor-management partnership, we have reached agreements with the Coalition every time, with no strikes,” the company’s statement says. “A strike notice does not mean a strike will happen. Our top priority is caring for our members and patients, and we have plans in place to ensure we can continue to provide, high-quality care should a strike actually occur.”

Also see: Kaiser to pay $49 million for dumping syringes, bodily fluids into normal dumpsters

Healthcare workers want Kaiser to increase staffing levels and lift the minimum wage floor to $25 hourly from $17 for all workers across the system.

Among its chief complaints, the coalition says Kaiser has slashed performance bonuses, increased sub-contracting and outsourcing and lagged in workforce training and hiring.

Kaiser refutes the coalition’s claims, saying it is committed to hiring and training. The company said a goal it made with the coalition to add 10,000 union jobs this year is nearly met with 9,700 roles filled.

“We are aggressively recruiting to fill more,” the company said.

Labor contracts with Kaiser expire Sept. 30.

Also see: UAW workers at Ontario parts distribution center poised to strike

A strike by Kaiser’s unions would add to a landscape of labor unrest in Southern California as Hollywood unions continue their fight for job protection and higher wages. The same issues are dominating dockworker, hospitality and fast-food industries, which have protested for years over low wages and poor protection at work.

Hollywood executives were back at the negotiating table Friday with the Writers Guild of America, hoping to find common ground after three days of talks and five months of work stoppage. Discussions on Thursday stalled on several key issues, the New York Times reported.

Also see: Side hustles have become survival strategy for Hollywood’s strikers

The guild has been on strike for 143 days, with union members fighting for better pay and work conditions as the streaming era creates more demand for a constant flow of entertainment. Studios have said they are offering the highest wage increases to writers in more than 30 years.

Labor unrest is also rising across the nation, with autoworkers expanding their strikes to 38 facilities in 20 states on Friday.

A Cornell-ILR Labor Action Tracker found there were 205,000 workers on strike in July vs. just 8,000 in the same month in 2022.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

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