The United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) and United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7600 announced today that 31,000 members who work at Southern California Kaiser Permanente locations have voted—by an overwhelming majority—to grant the unions the authority to call a strike.
“Health care workers are facing record levels of burnout after 20 months of the COVID pandemic,” said USW Local 7600 President Michael Barnett. “We urge Kaiser Permanente management to come to the table and bargain a fair contract that addresses chronic understaffing and safety issues rather than forcing workers into a labor dispute by insisting on dangerous cost-cutting measures.”
Together UNAC/UHCP and USW Local 7600 represent a combined 31,000 workers in a wide range of job classes from registered nurses, physical therapists, and pharmacists to licensed vocational nurses, appointment clerks, housekeeping attendants, medical assistants, customer service representatives, pharmacy assistants, phlebotomists, pharmacy technicians, membership service representatives, dietary aides and more.
They and other members of the Alliance of Health Care Unions serve Kaiser Permanente’s 12 million patients across 39 hospitals and more than 700 medical office buildings.
The Alliance has been at the bargaining table with health care giant Kaiser Permanente since April. The 21 union locals represent more than 50,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente medical centers and offices nationwide.
Among the top priorities for workers is ensuring a means to effectively fill open positions and maintain the safe-staffing levels necessary to protect patients and those who care for them. Instead, Kaiser Permanente management is pushing proposals that will exacerbate already critical staffing shortages, including slashing wages for new hires and depressing wages for current workers who are trying to keep up with rising costs for food, housing and other essentials.
“We’re concerned about the future of nursing and how we recruit and retain nurses and other health care workers who will serve our communities for years to come,” said Denise Duncan, RN, president of UNAC/UHCP. “We can no longer sit back and watch the employer continue to dismantle the progress we made in quality patient care and health plan membership growth.”
Duncan and Barnett both emphasized that Kaiser Permanente’s insistence on eroding standards of care and working conditions, despite the employer’s $44.5 billion in reserves, will impede efforts to advance health care access.
Both unions held strike authorization votes, which concluded on Oct. 10. The 3,400 members of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), who work at Kaiser locations across the state, also announced the results of their strike vote today. As required, the employer would get a 10-day notice before workers take any further action.
Kaiser Permanente patients and the public can click here to sign the Alliance petition calling for the health care giant to invest in patient care and those who provide it.
NOTE: All Kaiser Permanente employees who agree to interviews are speaking NOT as representatives of Kaiser Permanente, but as patient advocates and representatives of UNAC/UHCP—protected concerted activity as defined by the National Labor Relations Act, the National Labor Relations Board, and U.S. courts.