More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers across hospitals and medical office buildings in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington, DC, went on strike on Wednesday morning after the healthcare company failed to reach a contract agreement with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.
The three-day labor action will be the largest-ever healthcare strike in the US, involving 75,000 workers or about 40% of Kaiser's staff. Workers at Kaiser hospitals and medical offices in DC and Virginia headed to the picket line around 0600 ET. Other strikes are planned for emergency department technicians, radiology technicians, X-ray technicians, medical assistants, pharmacists, and many other positions across facilities in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state.
*KAISER WORKERS LAUNCH LARGEST-EVER HEALTH-CARE STRIKE IN THE US— zerohedge (@zerohedge) October 4, 2023
Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, told CNBC that workers have complained about 'unsafe working conditions and deteriorating care for patients' and demand better pay and benefits. Kaiser rejected a wage increase offer from the unions of at least 12.5% over a four-year contract and state-by-state minimum wages of $21 to $23 per hour. Both sides were at the bargaining table until late Tuesday but failed to come to an agreement.
"We continue to have front-line healthcare workers who are burnt out and stretched to the max and leaving the industry," Lucas told CNBC.
She continued, "We have folks getting injured on the job because they're trying to do too much and see too many people and work too quickly. It's not a sustainable situation."
Hilary Costa, a spokesperson for Kaiser, told Bussiness Insider that contingency plans are in place to ensure hospitals and emergency services will remain open during the strike.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions represents workers at nearly all of Kaiser's hospitals and medical office buildings. This suggests that 12.7 million people who rely on the hospital might experience delays in medical services through Saturday.
The strike by Kaiser workers is the latest labor action by unions this year as 'Biden inflation' has middle-class households. UAW strikes are still ongoing in Detroit against automakers, and there's a risk of another strike brewing in Vegas of more than 50,000 hospitality workers.