LOS ANGELES (CBS SF) — Over 85,000 hospital workers that are members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions are preparing to vote to authorize a national strike that would impact states across the country including California.
Union officials announced the pending strike vote Friday morning.
The national strike would take place in the fall. The vote stems from the latest round of contract talks between union officials and Kaiser Permanente broke off Thursday without reaching a new agreement. Workers under the coalition of unions have been working without a contract since September 30, 2018.
The strike vote will include members of multiple unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii and the District of Columbia. The vote is set to begin in late July and continuing into August, with members making a collective decision on whether to authorize an unfair labor practice strike.
According to the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions or CKPU, this would be the largest national strike in the U.S. since UPS Teamsters went on strike in 1997.
“While we have been providing care 24/7, holding the hands of sick and frightened patients and making sure they are safe and get the treatment they need, Kaiser has been focused on racking up multi-billion-dollar profits and paying executives exorbitant, million-dollar salaries,” Ida Prophet, an LVN at Kaiser South Sacramento in California said in a CKPU press release. “This is a non-profit company that has lost its way and is acting more like a typical for-profit corporation, where only a few at the top truly thrive.”
The strike is not the first labor issue Kaiser Permanente has faced this year. Back in May, thousands of mental health clinicians in California threatened to walk off the job across the state.
The clinicians who are part of National Union of Healthcare Workers — a group that included psychologists, therapists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and addiction medicine specialists — were demanding that Kaiser increase staffing levels to address what union leaders call a crisis of access to mental health services.
The strike was averted only days before the walkout was scheduled to take place in June.
Members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions are calling on the non-profit healthcare corporation to restore a proper worker-management partnership, ensure safe staffing and compassionate use of technology, build a workforce prepared to deal with major projected shortages of licensed and accredited staff and protect middle-class jobs with proper wages and benefits.
Kaiser Permanente workers also are calling the company adhere to basic financial transparency for the benefit of patients.
“Kaiser is one of the largest healthcare providers and insurers in the nation, but in many places it has gotten exemptions from the kind of reporting requirements that other health-related corporations must follow,” CKPU executive director Walter Allen said in the press release. “Their ability to operate in the shadows allows them to avoid the kind of scrutiny consumers, employers, unions and regulators need to protect the public.”
The CKPU maintains that, as a non-profit, Kaiser should directly serve the public interest in exchange for the billions of dollars it receives annually in tax breaks. The union says Kaiser has departed from its non-profit mission.
Kaiser Permanente has yet to issue a statement in response to stall in negotiations and possible strike.