Contact Form

    News Details

    Day 3: Kaiser unions threaten another strike if demands aren’t met
    • October 6, 2023

    A three-day strike among 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers entered its final day Friday, Oct. 6 without a deal, and union officials say another walkout may be brewing if the healthcare giant continues to “commit unfair labor practices and bargain in bad faith.”

    The workers are fighting for increased staffing, higher wages and limits on outsourcing of jobs, among other concerns.

    The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions says it’s prepared to issue a 10-day strike notice if need be, which could lead to another work stoppage. Additional bargaining sessions are set for next week on Oct. 12-13.

    Also see: Kaiser patients support striking workers but lament long wait times

    Kaiser nurses, ER techs, respiratory therapists, x-ray technicians and scores of others have long complained of being underpaid, understaffed and burned out from doing the job of two, and sometimes three, people — a scenario that has resulted in high employee turnover.

    Chronic understaffing, they say, can lead to dangerously long wait times, mistaken diagnoses and neglect.

    Striking Kaiser workers say chronic understaffing can lead to dangerously long wait times, mistaken diagnosis and neglect. (File photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

    Liza Jirakosyan, a certified nursing assistant at Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center, said her post-operative unit is severely understaffed.

    “We’ll often have just one or two nursing assistants to take care of 32 patients coming in from OR,” the 40-year-old Westwood resident said. “We’re trying to take care of all of them and prevent falls, but we just don’t have time to get to everyone.”

    Jirakosyan, who has been on the picket line for three days, said she’s prepared to strike again if need be.

    “If that’s what is necessary for us to get safe staffing and safe patient care, I’m all in — 100%,” she said.

    Also see: Voices from the picket line

    Workers are also concerned about the healthcare provider’s practice of outsourcing jobs. Putting limits on that, they say, would help keep experienced employees on the job while providing “strong continuity of care” for patients.

    Mounting frustrations over those factors fueled what has been called the largest healthcare strike in U.S. history. The walkout, which began early Wednesday, includes 23,000 Southern California workers and it has impacted operations at Kaiser hospitals and facilities throughout California, Colorado, Oregon, and southwest Washington state.

    A one-day strike was also held Wednesday among 180 Kaiser employees in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

    Kaiser workers are asking for a $25 hourly minimum wage, as well as increases of 7% each year in the first two years and 6.25% each year in the two years afterward.

    Kaiser, which turned a $2.1 billion profit for the quarter, has offered minimum wages of $23 an hour in California and $21 an hour elsewhere. The company said it also completed hiring 10,000 more people, adding to the 51,000 workers the hospital system has brought on board since 2022.

    But union officials say they have yet to see increased staffing.

    “Frontline healthcare workers will continue to take action until Kaiser executives agree to real lasting solutions to the Kaiser short-staffing crisis,” Renee Saldana, a spokeswoman for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said Friday. “Staffing levels simply cannot continue as they are.”

    In a statement issued Friday, Kaiser said its contingency plans to minimize disruption during the three-day strike have largely worked.

    “We are fortunate that most procedures were not delayed or deferred, most routine surgeries were not rescheduled and our ambulatory appointment access has been close to normal,” the company said.

    Some patients say things have been far from “normal” for years.

    Kaiser member Miguel Silva said he and his wife have faced increasingly long delays getting medical appointments over the past two years.

    “It’s frustrating,” Silva said Thursday as he exited a Kaiser facility in Canyon Country. “Sometimes we end up going to the ER to be seen.”

    Also see: What to know if you’re a Kaiser member

    Kaiser, which has converted many appointments to phone or video during the strike, said it “remains committed to reaching an agreement that is good for our employees, our members and our organization, and we will continue to bargain in good faith with our coalition partners.”

    The decision to walk off the job has been difficult, according to Josephine Rios, 55, a nurse attendant who takes in patients for surgery at another Kaiser hospital in Irvine.

    “Unfortunately, it’s a financial burden for us that live paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “We can’t afford to strike a long time, but it’s a double-edged sword. We can’t afford not to strike.”

    The Associated Press contributed to this report

    ​ Orange County Register