75,000 Kaiser workers threaten to strike if new deal isn't reached before contract expires

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
75,000 Kaiser union workers poised to strike
Thousands of Kaiser Permanente union workers are threatening to go on strike if a new contract deal isn't reached by Wednesday.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Around 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers nationwide, including here in the Bay Area, could soon be on a three-day strike.

An umbrella organization of about a dozen unions representing the workers say they plan to strike starting Wednesday morning if they can't come to a new working agreement with Kaiser.

"I want to make sure that in my employment I'm thinking about my patient all the time. Not thinking about I have to take a second job to be able to survive," said Sonya Allen-Smith.

Allen-Smith works as a Kaiser radiology technician in Oakland.

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She says issues like chronic understaffing, low pay and worker burnout are some of the top problems she and her colleagues want addressed.

Allen-Smith tells me, while these issues have been around for years, the pandemic has made them worse.

Now, she says it's impacting patient care because Kaiser simply doesn't have enough people.

"I treat every patient that comes in as if they were my mom. or as if they were my family members," said Allen-Smith.

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If a strike were to happen, Kaiser Permanente says their hospitals and emergency departments would remain open, but that some non-urgent medical appointments may need to be rescheduled.

In a statement they said, in part:

"A strike is not inevitable, and it is certainly not justified. Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengths Kaiser Permanente as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access."

The Kaiser strike would be just the latest in a series of major strikes that has happened nationwide in recent months.

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All of them, share similarities says labor law professor, William Gould.

"Much of it grows out of a labor shortage, some of it grows out of wages that have been depressed in the past that much of organized labor is trying to engage in and catchup," he said.

As negotiations head into their final day, Allen-Smith says she hopes Kaiser management listens to their employees.

"We want them to bargain in good faith. Let the frontline healthcare workers work with you to solve the Kaiser workforce shortage."

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