With healthcare employees for Kaiser Permanente poised to launch a three-day strike that their union says will be the largest of its type in U.S. history, contract talks between the provider and union negotiators will continue today in hopes of averting the walkout.
On Monday, Kaiser officials issued a statement saying its leaders were meeting with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions “and have been making progress.”
“We jointly agreed this morning to continue to meet through midday Tuesday if needed to reach an agreement,” according to Kaiser. “A strike is not inevitable, and it is certainly not justified. Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens Kaiser Permanente as the best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access.”
There appeared to be less optimism on the union side, which circulated plans for picketing that would begin at 6 a.m. Wednesday at Kaiser locations throughout the state — with 75,000 Kaiser workers expected to take part across California and several other states.
“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,” Jessica Cruz, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center — one of the planned picket locations — said in a statement released by the union.
“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. We’re burning ourselves out trying to do the jobs of two or three people, and our patients suffer when they can’t get the care they need due to Kaiser’s short-staffing.”
According to the union, there will be additional pickets at Kaiser facilities across the state, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and Orange counties.
According to the union coalition, additional picketing would be done at Kaiser facilities in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C..
The workers’ contract expired on Saturday, but bargaining continued over the weekend and Monday. If no agreement is reached Tuesday morning, or if there’s no agreement to put off the strike, workers will hit the picket lines Wednesday morning.
The union has accused Kaiser of cutting employee performance bonuses, failing to protect employees against subcontracting, offering wages that fail to keep pace with inflation, and falling short in efforts to maintain adequate staffing levels.
According to Kaiser, the company is offering “across the board wage increases,” with a minimum wage starting at $21 an hour. The health care provider denied allegations it is slashing performance bonuses and raising premiums for members without any relation to health care costs or improvements in care.
“In Southern California, where our wages significantly exceed market levels, we are offering wage increases of 10% over four years plus lump sum bonuses of 4%, to keep our employees well compensated,” according to Kaiser.
In its statement Monday, Kaiser stated that the company has “plans in place to ensure we can continue to provide high-quality care should a strike actually occur this week.”
Healthcare professionals in San Diego, along with those across the country, have been facing the issue of being overworked and underpaid, leading to increased demand for basic work ethics. This problem has been recurring for a while now, and recently, 21 dialysis clinics in San Diego went on strike due to the same issue.