In a historic move, Kaiser Permanente healthcare professionals in Southern California initiated a three-day strike following the failure to produce an agreement amid contract negotiations. Notably the largest in United States history, the strike started at 3 a.m. on the East Coast, with strikers throughout Southern California joining at 6 a.m. The strike is led by the union representing nationwide Kaiser employees. 

Before the strike, a Kaiser spokesman provided insight into the ongoing talks, with Kaiser claiming several agreements with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente unions had been reached regarding specific provisions. After declaring a commitment to around-the-clock attention toward achieving a fair deal, Kaiser’s newer statements about negotiations claim the coalition union representatives and Kaiser Permanente management are still at the bargaining table. According to a report from Kaiser’s Senior Media Relations Specialist Terry Kankari, the two entities have worked tirelessly to reach an agreement that offers robust employee benefits. 

Just days before the strike, Kaiser officials expressed that a strike was neither inevitable nor justified. They laid out their goal to reach an agreement that ultimately strengthens Kaiser Permanente as a quality workplace with reliably efficient, affordable, and accessible care for members. Despite these statements, the union remained prepared to take action after failed contract talks and maintained picketing plans, which commenced Wednesday at several Kaiser locations statewide.

Throughout California and several states, 75,000 Kaiser Workers are expected to band together and make their voice heard, expressing that Kaiser Executives are refusing to listen to the needs of employees suffering from Kaiser’s short-staffing crisis. Employees suggest Kaiser Executives are bargaining in bad faith and failing to deliver substantial solutions. Kaiser employees have been disheartened by the burnout of single-handedly taking on the roles of several people. At the same time, their patients suffer and become frustrated when healthcare professionals have to rush them and hurry to the next patient. Desiring to give patients the attention and care they need, Kaiser employees are demanding the short-staffing crisis be adequately addressed.

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The picketing locations are set to expand all across California, with the union reporting that additional pickets will be set up at Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, and Orange County Kaiser facilities. Within the United States, the union coalition reports additional picketing will occur in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia Kaiser facilities. The strike consists of numerous workers across various practices in the healthcare field, including licensed vocational nurses, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians, behavioral health workers, surgical, radiology, pharmacy technicians, medical assistants, emergency department technicians, ultrasound sonographers, teleservice representatives, and many more. 

Along with inefficient efforts to maintain necessary staffing levels, Kaiser Permanente has been accused of cutting employees’ performance bonuses, failing to protect against subcontractors, and not offering wages that reflect inflation. Kaiser denied allegations of slashing performance bonuses and raising members’ premiums while also claiming to provide wage increases across the board. As the historic strike unfolds, it brings to the forefront the challenges in reaching a consensus between healthcare providers and the workforce advocating for better working conditions and patient care.