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75,000 healthcare workers go on strike

Hospital sign. (Dreamstime/TNS)
October 04, 2023

Over 75,000 Kaiser Permanente employees embarked on a three-day strike Wednesday, which, according to union representatives, marks the largest healthcare worker strike in U.S. history.

According to Fox Business, the ramifications of the strike are anticipated to ripple across multiple states, with strikes taking place in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

The healthcare behemoth, Kaiser Permanente, was notified about the impending strike last month, which began Wednesday following the expiration of the previous contract last Saturday. A statement by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions on its website states, “This three-day strike will be the initial demonstration of our strength to Kaiser that we will not stand for their unfair labor practices.”

The central issue in the massive strike is what the healthcare unions describe as a “short-staffing crisis.” Healthcare union representatives claim that the “short-staffing crisis” can jeopardize patient safety, potentially resulting in extended wait times, misdiagnoses, and even neglect. The unions also claim that Kaiser Permanente is guilty of unfair labor practices.

According to Fox News, Jessica Cruz, a nurse at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, has claimed, “Kaiser executives are refusing to listen to us and are bargaining in bad faith over the solutions we need to end the Kaiser short-staffing crisis. I see my patients’ frustrations when I have to rush them and hurry on to my next patient. That’s not the care I want to give.”

Cruz added that healthcare workers are being burned out by trying to cover the “jobs of two or three people” and that patients are suffering due to issues caused by “Kaiser’s short-staffing.”

A recent demonstration in September at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West attracted thousands of protestors, some of whom even formed a human chain.

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The striking healthcare coalition is seeking a comprehensive package that includes a 24.5% salary increase over a four-year period, stronger protections against subcontracting, the ability to organize unions at any new Kaiser-owned systems, and enhanced medical benefits.

According to Fox News, Kaiser’s recent proposal included a wage increase between 12.5% and 16% based on employee location, an overhaul of its performance-sharing plan, and improvements in retiree medical benefits.

Responding to allegations, Kaiser pointed to a broader national shortage of healthcare professionals. However, they highlighted their efforts in hiring 50,000 frontline workers in the past two years and expect to hit the goal of 10,000 new hires for coalition-represented jobs by the end of the month.

“We need to keep working together to get through this,” Kaiser said in a statement obtained by Fox Business. “Because the reality is that we are still in a health care crisis in this country. Access to care is stretched thin, and it will take time to recover as an industry and stabilize the U.S. health care system. We can only do that if we work together, management and labor, side-by-side, for one another, our patients, and our communities.”

Kaiser has reassured the public that its facilities will remain operational, with physicians, experienced managers, and staffing during the strike.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.