Kaiser workers vote to strike in October

Unionized workers from one of the nation’s largest health systems have voted to strike against the healthcare organization in early October amid ongoing labor negotiations.

Workers from California-based Kaiser Permanente voted yes to a strike between July 29 and Aug. 11, with more than 37,000 cast ballots in support of the movement.

The workers have been negotiating with Kaiser Permanente for some time, arguing that they are subjected to unfair labor practices as company executives at the non-profit are given huge salaries without any oversight.

The workers want several issues resolved, including more transparency across the organization and better protection for middle-class jobs with wages and benefits.

According to Kaiser Permanente, the healthcare organization has presented the union workers––which reach nearly 85,000––a contract with annual pay increases above market averages and benefits.

“Contrary to the union’s claims, there are no pay cuts and no changes to our employees’ defined pension benefit under our proposal,” a recent statement from Kaiser Permanente Vice President John Nelson reads.

Workers disagree. The contract with the workers expired Sept. 30, 2018, and the National Labor Relations Board charged Kaiser with failing to bargain in good faith in December 2018, the union noted. The company announced a nearly $1 billion investment in a new headquarters in June.

“This strike vote is about stopping Kaiser’s unfair labor practices,” Heather Wright, a women’s health clerk at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California, said in a statement from the union, Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). “This company should be all about providing the best possible patient care, but unfortunately its focus in recent years has been on making billions of dollars in profits and millions of dollars for Kaiser executives.”

Union workers have also criticized the company’s minimal efforts in treating Medicaid patient as a non-profit provider, paying out millions to executives—including a $6 million raise to its CEO––and “destroying good jobs” by outsourcing them to low-wage companies.

Kaiser also argued that the legitimacy of the vote for the strike is questionable as a result of the wording is misleading.