More than 80,000 Kaiser Permanente workers will begin voting Monday to authorize a nationwide unfair-labor-practices strike in October, which would be the nation’s biggest strike in two decades, labor leaders said.
The voting will include the casting of ballots from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center at 4867 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles, they said. Voting will also take place at Kaiser Permanente facilities across California and continue into early September at facilities in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The strike would start in early October.
Preparations for the strike, which would be the largest since the Teamsters strike at United Parcel Service in 1997, began after contract talks stalled July 12. In December 2018, the National Labor Relations Board charged Kaiser Permanente with failing to bargain in good faith. Since then, Kaiser has continued to bargain in bad faith and commit additional unfair labor practices, said Sean Wherley, a spokesman for the Kaiser workers.
“While we’re working for a healthy America, Kaiser Permanente, a nonprofit, has abandoned its mission to serve communities in favor of earning massive profits and enriching top executives,” said Eli Quintero, a Psychology Social Clerk at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. “It’s those executives and the corporation’s bank account that are thriving as Kaiser raises prices for patients, undermines quality healthcare, refuses to bargain in good faith, and attacks the frontline healthcare workers who have made it successful.”
The previous contract expired Sept. 30, 2018.
Wherley said workers are fighting to:
— “Restore a true worker-management partnership, and have Kaiser bargain in good faith;
— “Ensure safe staffing and compassionate use of technology;
— “Build the workforce of the future to deal with major projected shortages of licensed and accredited staff in the coming years;
— “Protect middle-class jobs with wages and benefits that can support families.
As a non-profit, Kaiser is supposed to directly serve the public interest in exchange for billions in tax breaks, Wherley said. But in recent years, he added, Kaiser has departed from its mission by squeezing out billion-dollar profits, providing excessive compensation to executives — such as $16 million to its CEO — failing to serve its share of low-income patients and attacking Kaiser workers.
He said the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions comprises labor unions in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, representing more than 80,000 Kaiser caregivers.
There was no immediate response from Kaiser management.